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Police officers aim guns at photojournalist, interfere with him taking photographs of crime scene in Chihuahua

(CEPET/IFEX) - On the morning of 26 February 2008, State Ministerial Police (Policía Ministerial) officers threatened and aimed their guns at David Alvídrez López, a photojournalist for "El Diario" newspaper, which is published in the northern city of Chihuahua, capital of the state of the same name. At the time of the incident, Alvídrez López was covering the murder of Ricardo Chacón Ruiz, a ministerial police commander. The murder took place in a public area and is presumed to have been carried out by hired assassins.

"The ministerial police officers did not attack only the 'El Diario' photographer. A public security (Seguridad Pública) officer who had arrived prior on the scene was also arguing with one of the ministry police and it got to the point where they were on the verge of shooting at each other a few metres from where the commander's body was lying," the newspaper reported in an article published on 27 February.

This is the second incident between "El Diario" reporters and police officers in two weeks. On 18 February, Federal Preventive Police (Policía Federal Preventiva) officers in Delicias, a city located 45 minutes from Chihuahua, stopped "El Diario" reporter Dulce Ramos and cameraman Marco Antonio Mendoza and asked them to identify themselves and hand over their videotape. The videotape and camera were subsequently returned to them (see IFEX alert of 27 February 2008).

Alvídrez López said that he arrived at the scene of the ministerial police commander's assassination because there was a police operation taking place but the area had not been cordoned off, therefore he got as close as he could to the scene, at which point he was stopped by a police officer who asked him to let the police officer do his work. Alvídrez López told the officer that he too was there to do his work. "I was in no way interfering with police work, much less disturbing the scene of the crime, so I continued taking photographs," he says.

After he took several more photographs, another ministerial police officer approached Alvídrez López and brandished his AR-15 assault rifle, shouting, "Get out of here or I'll shoot you (. . .) because you're not doing what you've been told to do."

Alvídrez López said that even after he left the scene, other ministerial police officers continued to harrass him and one of them pointed his gun at the journalist's abdomen. Finally, a police commander stopped them.

On 27 February, Chihuahua Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas offered to initiate an investigation into the incident and to ensure that the officers responsible for the threats against the journalist would be punished.

In an interview with CEPET, "El Diario" information director Raúl Lechuga Manquera said that following the governor's assurances that the incident would be investigated, Alvídrez López decided to drop a complaint he had intended to file with the State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos, CEDH). Ramos and Mendoza also decided to drop the complaints they were filing.

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