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Federal police harass reporters in Chihuahua

(CEPET/IFEX) - Reporter Dulce Ramos and photojournalist and cameraman Marco Antonio Mendoza, of "El Diario" newspaper, were threatened by members of the Federal Preventive Police (Policía Federal Preventiva), who took away their video camera and aimed guns at them, when the two were covering a police operation in the city of Delicias, in Chihuahua, a state in northern Mexico, reported "El Diario" director Rubén Valles Mata to CEPET.

Valles Mata says the incident occurred on 18 February, at about 11:00 a.m. (local time), when the reporter and cameraman began following a police convoy that they came upon by chance on the street. Mendoza was accompanying Ramos to collect photographs and video footage for the newspaper and its website.

Upon noticing the newspaper crew, the police, travelling in two pick-up trucks, signaled for Ramos and Mendoza to pull over. The police asked them to identify themselves and after confirming that they worked for "El Diario", the police apologised and continued on their way. However, six blocks beyond, the police again surrounded Ramos's vehicle. One of them asked the journalists to turn off the video camera and hand it over.

The police removed the video tape and after searching the journalists' vehicle, threw the camera and the tape inside, and left, says Valles Mata. He notes that municipal police from Delicias witnessed the PFP agents's stopping of the reporters' vehicle but did not intervene.

"El Diario", Ramos and Mendoza have initiated a formal complaint before the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público), as well as a complaint before the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos).

"After what happened, I called both of the police forces and the Chihuahua office of the national Attorney General's Office, and nobody gave us any answers; they were unaware that the PFP had been in Delicias, and tried to distance themselves from the problem; nothing was explained," said Valles Mata. He added that prior to the incident, nothing of this nature had ever happened, nor had the newspaper ever received any threat.

Valle Mata notes that a few days after the incident, Carmelo Hernández Vázquez, the PFP commander in Chihuahua, visited the "El Diario" editors, and offered an apology to the journalists. However, he also asked them to stop publishing news about the incident, because the police "are affected by these articles." Valle Mata adds that the commander refused to apologise in writing or provide the name of the head of the police squad involved in the incident, limiting himself to saying that the officer in question had been transferred to PFP headquarters in Mexico City.

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