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Mexico28 June 2002

One journalist questioned about her sources, two others assaulted by state agents

Reporters without borders expressed concern over the assaults on Inving Leftor Magaña, camera operator for Telemundo, a cable television station in Hidalgo State (northern Mexico) and Humberto Cásarez, from the daily "Imagen", published in the city of Fresnillo (Zacatecas State, northern Mexico). In a letter to Interior Minister Santiago Creel Miranda, Reporters without borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard condemned "the increase in the number of assaults and threats against journalists." He asked Miranda to open an investigation into each case, bearing in mind that state agents may be involved. According to Reporters without borders, there were approximately 15 cases of attacks or threats recorded in 2001.

Moreover, Reporters without borders protested the summons by the Acapulco Public Prosecutor’s office served on Maribel Gutiérrez, of the daily "El Sur", published in Acapulco, in Guerrero State, (southeastern Mexico). Gutiérrez was questioned about her sources for articles she wrote on the assassination of Digna Ochoa, a lawyer and human rights activist. "All journalists questioned about information gathered while exercising their profession must have their right to the confidentiality of sources respected," stated Ménard.

"Despite a slow improvement in the press freedom situation, civil servants and elected officials, who do not accept the press’s role as a counterbalance, continuously subject journalists to acts of intimidation," Ménard noted.

According to information gathered by Reporters without borders, on 24 June 2002, Leftor, a camera operator for Telemundo, was hospitalised after being assaulted by officers from the Pachuca (capital of Hidalgo State) Municipal Police. He fractured his left leg. The assault took place while the journalist and 20 other information professionals were covering a demonstration by the Agricultural Workers’ Union (Unión de trabajadores agrícolas, UNTA). The protest was violently contained by municipal security officers. According to testimony from journalists present at the scene, there was no justification for the assault on Leftor. The journalist has filed a complaint.

On 31 May, Cásarez, from the daily "Imagen", was assaulted by the president of the Fresnillo Autonomous University (Universidad Autónoma de Fresnillo, UAF) board of directors, Gustavo Ramos, and Rector Jesús Bonilla Elizondo. The assault occurred after the daily published information on alleged acts of corruption by the UAF directors. The newspaper has filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s office.

Also according to information gathered by Reporters without borders, Gutiérrez, from the daily "El Sur", was questioned on 12 June by an official from the Acapulco Public Prosecutor’s office, regarding the investigation of lawyer and human rights activist Ochoa’s assassination. Gutiérrez was summoned after the 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 June publications of columns in "El Sur", which reported on Ochoa’s alleged murderers. The Public Prosecutor’s Office ignored and did not verify this information. During her appearance in court, the journalist refused to identify her sources. A few days before Gutiérrez’s summons, Mexico City and Guerrero State judicial police officers had gone to "El Sur"’s offices to sp eak with the newspaper’s director.

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