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Two journalists assaulted in Oaxaca, accused of spying for government, as press climate continues to deteriorate

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Photographers Hugo Velasco and Jorge Luis Plata, of the newspapers "Periódico Noticias de Oaxaca" and the "Imparcial", respectively, were assaulted by a group of protestors belonging to section 22 of the national educators union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE).

The protestors blocked the journalists' access to a public event held by the state government, refusing to let them pass even after the journalists showed their press credentials. The protestors then hit the journalists and tried to seize their cameras, while accusing them of being "government spies" and alleging that the journalists planned to provide the photographs they took to state security personnel.

After some 15 minutes of confrontation, the journalists were obliged to erase their photographs in order to be released. Fearful of the threats to which they had been subject while detained by the protestors, the journalists later filed complaints with local authorities.

Acts of violence and intimidation against journalists, by governmental and non-governmental actors, have increased in tandem with political tensions in Oaxaca.

Regardless of the perpetrator, acts of intimidation against the press constitute the most objectionable form of censorship. Journalists have an important role to play in resolving the political tensions that have racked Oaxaca over the last year, and in investigating related human rights abuses.

Indymedia reporter Brad Will was killed on 27 October 2006 while covering the actions of the social organisation Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO). On 12 June 2007, "Tiempo de Oaxaca" reporter Misael Sánchez was shot on his way home. Newspaper vendors Mateo Cortés Martínez, Agustín López and Flor Vásquez López were killed on 8 October. On 24 January 2007, Radio Calenda workers were assaulted, while in August 2006 Radio Nandia was occupied by an armed group. All of these incidents, related to the political tensions in the state, remain inadequately addressed by the Oaxacan state government.

ARTICLE 19 finds all threats and acts of aggression against journalists unacceptable. "We have to watch out for attacks from both sides of the conflict . . . We're stuck in the middle here," Plata told ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE 19 again calls on the Mexican authorities to fulfil their international human rights commitments by providing adequate protection to journalists seeking to exercise their right to press freedom in Oaxaca.

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