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Seven journalists assaulted while covering police raid in Quetzaltenango

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - On the night of 7 March 2008, correspondents Mynor Toc, of "Prensa Libre" newspaper, José Cancinos, of "El Metropolitano" local newspaper, Carlos Ventura of "Nuestro Diario" newspaper, Vinicio Tan, of radio station Stereo 100, Walter Albillo, of the Cable DX on-line news publication programme "Primera Línea", Antonio Uluan, of the "Noti7" news programme and Diego López of Canal 9 television station's "TVO" programme, were assaulted by members of the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil) while they were covering a story about a police operation involving a raid on a home in Quetzaltenango department, 190 kilometers from the capital, Guatemala City.

According to information obtained by CERIGUA, agents from the investigations centre of the Secretariat of Administrative and Safety Affairs (Secretaría de Asuntos Administrativos y de Seguridad, SAIA) and the directorate of criminal investigations (Dirección de Investigación Criminal, DINC) carried out a search of a home. However, upon finding jewelry valued at 800,000 quetzals (approx. US$105,000), three of the policemen removed the jewelry from the home, placing the goods in three of the vehicles they were using for the operation.

The same evening, agents of the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público), at the request of the owners of the searched home, confirmed that that illegal act had taken place, verifying that the policemen had put the jewelry in the three vehicles in question.

District police chief Margarito Cifuentes, along with a group of other police officers, went to the scene; he and his subordinates covered the faces of their colleagues accused of the misdeed, to prevent the media from identifying the policemen involved. When the reporters tried to take photographs or tape video images of the accused, they were beaten on various parts of their bodies.

Ileana Alamilla - CERIGUA's director and also president of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG) press freedom committee - asked that journalists' right to carry out their work be respected and urged the journalists assaulted to file formal complaints about the incidents before the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists and Trade Unionists (Fiscalía de Delitos contra Periodistas y Sindicalistas).

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