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Mexican journalist assaulted while covering police abuses

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Mexico City, 21 November 2012 - Fernando Palacios Cházares, director of the regional magazine Ruta 135, was assaulted and robbed of his work equipment by people thought to be officers from the Eloxochitlán municipal police in Oaxaca. Palacios Cházares was covering an incident involving people who are opposed to the local mayor, Manuel Zepeda. The journalist, who suffered a 13cm gash to his head, was kept under medical observation for more than 12 hours.

Helder Palacios, who is in charge of the online version of Ruta 135, told ARTICLE 19 that the incident took place on the night of Tuesday 20 November 2012, in a place called Puente de Fierro, where a group of armed men, some of whom were hooded, attacked a bus full of Asamblea Comunitaria members on their way to Mexico City. The Asamblea Comunitaria group is the main opposition to the mayor.

Palacios Cházares noticed what was happening on the bus while driving through the area, and he took out his camera to capture the incident. Some of the people attacking the bus noticed him, punched him and threw him down a hill, where he stayed for hours without moving. His attackers took his photography equipment, a laptop, two mobile phones, a digital recorder and a tablet.

The journalist said that during the attack he recognised the local mayor and other municipal officials, who earlier in the day had tried to take away his camera when he was recording abuses against a family who had anti-Zepeda flyers in their home.

In addition to Palacios Cházares, at least 13 other people were injured, according to reports. The attack took place in the context of a conflict which has been going on for two years; the mayor had unilaterally decided to stop four Asamblea Comunitaria members from occupying alderman posts to which they had been elected.

In the current year alone, ARTICLE 19 has documented more than 20 attacks on the press in Oaxaca; a third of these were perpetrated by the authorities. ARTICLE 19 has publicised the fact that in many cases there has been slow or no intervention by authorities to curb violations against journalists.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates its demand that the state authorities, in accordance with their international human rights responsibilities, take the steps necessary to identify and punish those responsible and to guarantee the victims of these violations are provided with the appropriate reparations. These acts must come to an end, as must the pattern of impunity. Only through these means can the conditions journalists require to carry out their work freely be guaranteed.

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