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Mexico17 July 2008

Call for “exemplary punishment” for police hounding of the media

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the aggressive posture of some police officers, particularly at the federal level, after assaults on journalists on the same day both in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the state of Sinaloa in the north-west.

Around 30 police officers with the Federal Preventative Police (PPP) threatened Rafael Leyva Mexía and Luis Vásquez Vega, photographers respectively on the regional dailies El Diario de Los Mochis and Noroeste in Los Mochis in Sinaloa state on 15 July, after they took shots of a police convoy just after it left the scene of a demonstration.

They pointed guns at the journalists whom they accused of being from the “gutter press” before photographing them while heaping insults on them. Other journalists who arrived later where also aggressively questioned and had to take flight.

Leyva Mexía and Vásquez Vega both made complaints to the Sinaloa state human rights commission. One of the two photographers told Reporters Without Borders that, in the light of a similar case involving journalists from the regional daily El Debate in May, they might also take the case before the federal justice ministry.

In the second case, judicial police travelling in five vehicles intercepted Jacobo Velásquez Gordillo, journalist on the privately-owned national channel TV Azteca and technical staff in the capital at 2am on the same day as they were returning to their studios. They were forced at gunpoint to produce their identify papers. Police then seized their mobile phones and their camera battery on the pretext that they had tried to interfere with an investigation. Police officers rained blows onto Velásquez Gordillo as they tried to force him into the boot of his car.

The journalists made a complaint for “abuse of authority” at the special prosecutor’s office responsible for civil servants. The Federal District Human Rights Commission has also made a complaint which it is waiting for the journalists to sign.

“This abusive behaviour leaves the press even more vulnerable at a time when it is already exposed to threats from organised crime, particularly in the states like Sinaloa which are in thrall to the drug cartels”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“The safety of Mexican journalists is more under threat than ever and this situation can only worsen still further if the authorities decide for reasons of state to close the cases lodged by the victims. There should be exemplary punishment”, the organisation added.

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