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A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar toward riot police during a protest against President Daniel Ortega's government in Managua, Nicaragua, on May 28, 2018. Civilians attacked and set fire to a pro-government radio station in Managua on May 28. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

Civilians attack, set fire to pro-government radio station in Nicaragua

May 30, 2018 4:03 PM ET

Bogotá, May 30, 2018--Nicaraguan authorities should investigate an attack on a pro-government radio station in Managua, the capital, hold the perpetrators to account, and ensure that journalists covering ongoing unrest in the country can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A mob armed with Molotov cocktails and homemade mortars attacked the Tu Nueva Radio Ya station on Monday, setting fire to the entrance of the building amid ongoing protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega, according to news reports.

Firefighters extinguished the flames, which caused extensive damage to the station. About 20 employees were inside the building but were not hurt, according to news reports. Station manager Dennis Schwartz said the attackers also stole equipment. "We are evaluating our losses," Schwartz told reporters. "They stole consoles, computers, a refrigerator, and televisions. These people are delinquents."

"Nicaragua's journalists should be free to cover the ongoing protests without facing threats or harassment from either the state or civilians," CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said from New York. "Nicaraguans deserve access to diverse news sources, and all parties should respect the right of journalists to work freely and safely, regardless of political affiliation."

The attack occurred during a day of violence that began when riot police moved against anti-government demonstrators holed up at the National Engineering University in Managua. Two people, including one police officer, were killed and at least 40 people were injured, according to news reports.

The unrest in Nicaragua, which began on April 18, was sparked by the Ortega government's decision to reform the social security system by increasing contributions and reducing payouts to pensioners. Amid rising violence, the government scrapped the plan. But protesters are now demanding that Ortega, who has held the presidency for the past 11 years and also headed a Marxist government in the 1980s, leave office.

Amid clashes between protesters, police, and pro-government mobs, 81 people have been killed and 868 wounded, according to Amnesty International. In addition, Nicaraguan authorities have cracked down on protest coverage by independent media outlets, censoring news broadcasts and blocking TV broadcasts. Multiple journalists have been injured and one has been killed while covering the protests, according to CPJ research.

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