Press Watchdog Calls for Probe of Latest Attack on Nicaraguan Journalists

An international press watchdog is calling on Nicaraguan officials to investigate Tuesday’s attack on reporters covering the funeral of poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal.According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, several reporters were chased, shoved, beaten and robbed during Cardenal’s funeral at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.Local news outlets say the unidentified attackers, clad in red-and-black bandanas — the colors of President Daniel Ortega’s ruling Sandinista party — shouted slogans praising the hard-line ruler.Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega shout slogans against anti-government people during the funeral mass for Nicaraguan poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, March 3, 2020.Serious injuriesJennifer Ortiz, director of digital outlet Nicaragua Investiga, said police officers outside the cathedral stood down as the violence unfolded.Police did not respond to requests for comment.“We are a small independent media, and they leave us totally defenseless,” Ortiz told CPJ. “We are outraged by how journalism has been attacked, and we are worried about what might happen in an electoral context.”The assailants punched and kicked Ortiz’s staff reporter, Hans Lawrence, before stealing his phone, tripod and microphones.Lawrence, who is epileptic, was vomiting blood after the attack and remains under medical evaluation.Ortega supporters also beat and robbed Leonor Álvarez of national daily newspaper La Prensa, and David Quintana of Boletin Ecológico, who was also hospitalized briefly.Ongoing violenceThe attack came just days after the FILE – Nicaraguan poet and Catholic priest Ernesto Cardenal sits after he was awarded the Legion of Honor order during a reception in Managua, Nicaragua, Sept. 30, 2013.The clampdown has drawn international condemnation from the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States, which, like demonstrators calling for Ortega’s resignation, compare the president to the dictator he helped to overthrow.Ortega’s government calls the uprising, which has claimed 320 lives, part of a U.S.-financed coup attempt.Cardenal, who died of heart and kidney failure in Managua on Sunday at the age of 95, once supported the Sandinista revolution before distancing himself from Ortega, becoming one of the president’s most trenchant critics.In 1983, he was one of three Nicaraguan priests suspended from the priesthood over his support for the Sandinistas. Pope Francis lifted Cardenal’s suspension in February 2019.Paris-based Reporters Without Borders ranks Nicaragua 114th out of 180 countries in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, a 24-point drop from its 2018 ranking.

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