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World

Journalists And NGOs Face Shutdowns, Beatings As Nicaragua Stifles Dissent

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

An escalation in the crisis in Nicaragua - this weekend, President Daniel Ortega's police raided the offices of human rights groups and media organizations, and then beat journalists when they protested. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Carlos Fernando Chamorro marched to the police station near the ransacked and now closed-down offices where he produces his nightly cable news show and online paper, Confidencial. With nearly a dozen reporters filming alongside, the son of former President Violeta Chamorro demanded the return of his computers and equipment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "This act violates the freedom of the press, the freedom of expression," said Chamorro. "You are acting illegally by taking our property," he continued as he demanded to see who signed the order sending in the police. He didn't get any answers and instead was attacked by a dozen officers in riot gear wielding batons.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD YELLING)

KAHN: Yelling, just wait and see what's going to happen to you, officers struck several reporters as they retreated quickly from the police station. Last week, Nicaragua's congress, controlled by President Ortega's party members, revoked the legal standing of five non-governmental organizations. Among those stripped of their licenses is the respected Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, which has been providing legal assistance to hundreds of protesters and family members of those jailed and disappeared in recent months. Since last April when anti-government protests began against Ortega and his wife, who's the country's vice president, more than 325 people have been killed, according to the Organization of American States. An email soliciting comment from the government was not answered.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington will hold those accountable for abuses in Nicaragua and that the Ortega regime will not succeed in its efforts to harass, threaten and repress the country's independent media. And last week, the U.S. Congress passed a bill freezing all assets and blocking visas of Nicaraguan officials involved in human rights violations and corruption. It still needs to be signed by President Trump. Carrie Kahn, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.