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Journalist killed as protests flare in Nicaragua

April 22, 2018

A Nicaraguan journalist was shot dead Saturday while filming a confrontation between demonstrators and the police, amid a wave of protests against the government which have left 11 people dead.

Miguel Angel Gahona was killed by a suspected sniper in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, local media reported.

“We believe a sniper fired the shot, it wasn’t the young people… The only people who were armed were the police and riot police,” his colleague Ileana Lacayo told television station Canal 15.

Since protests erupted on Wednesday — the biggest in President Daniel Ortega’s 11 years in office — journalists have reportedly faced attacks, been temporarily detained and had their work equipment stolen. Meanwhile, four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday, although only one currently remains closed.

Nicaraguans have taken to the streets over a proposed change to the pension system, which would see workers and employers pay more toward the retirement system. The reform would aim to settle a $76 million deficit faced by the country’s social security institute.

Ortega, in a bid to calm the protests, agreed Saturday to hold a dialogue with the private sector on reforming the social security law. However, Nicaragua’s top private-sector business union said there could be no talks unless the government “immediately ceases police repression.”

Following the president’s speech, clashes between young protesters throwing stones and riot police using tear gas flared up in the capital Managua, with other marches taking place around the impoverished Central American nation.

According to Ortega — who first governed in the 1980s, and returned to power in 2007 — the protests are backed by anti-government organizations funded from within the United States to “sow terror and insecurity.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.