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Local media critical of municipal government in La Piedad subjected to harassment campaign, says newspaper editor

(CEPET/IFEX) - Jesús Lemus Barajas, editor of the La Piedad-based newspaper "El Tiempo", asserts that the municipal government of La Piedad, under mayor Ricardo Guzmán Romero of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), who took office on 1 January 2008, is conducting a harassment campaign against local media outlets critical of City Hall. La Piedad is a city based in the western state of Michoacán.

The harassment campaign has included the arbitrary detention of two "El Tiempo" journalists - José Antonio Chavolla Barragán and Alicia López Barajas - who were arrested and handcuffed in mid-March 2008 by municipal police as they were interviewing protestors outside a municipal building. They were accused of "inciting disorder", Lemus Barajas informed CEPET.

In addition, on various occasions in 2008, "El Tiempo" vendors have been arbitrarily detained to prevent the circulation of the newspaper, especially on days when the newspaper carried articles critical of the local authorities, Lemus Barajas affirmed.

"El Tiempo" is not the only media outlet whose journalists have been harassed. On 27 March, according to Lemus Barajas, reporter Claudio Pérez Carmona of local television station Canal 48, was detained and held incommunicado for four hours for having reported on the alleged misconduct of the municipal police chief, Mario Méndez Garnica.

Lemus Barajas says that the municipal authorities also award advertising contracts in a discriminatory way, to reward loyal media outlets and punish those that are critical. He also believes that traffic enforcement personnel have been instructed to detain reporters from those media outlets and accuse them of traffic violations, on any pretext available, and that as a result reporters' vehicles are frequently towed.

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