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Photojournalist's coverage of public event involving Aguascalientes governor impeded by private guards

(CEPET/IFEX) - Private security guards from the company Omega, as well as a civilian who refused to identify himself, obliged photojournalist Juan Manuel Robledo Gamiño, a regular freelance contributor of material to "Proceso" weekly magazine and ProcesoFoto news agency, to stop taking photographs of Aguascalientes Governor Luis Armando Reynoso Femat, at a public event in the wee hours of 27 April 2008. They alleged that the orders to stop him came "from higher up." The incident took place inside the Víctor Sandoval theatre where a show involving Argentine musician Facundo Cabral, Emiliano Roque and the Los Correa musical group was taking place, as part of the San Marco national festival.

The photojournalist had gone there to take photos of Cabral and Roque, and initially had no problems going about his work. At around 2:00 a.m. (local time) on 27 April, Los Correa invited the governor, a member of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), to the stage to accompany them on the drums, which he immediately did.

Several people, including Robledo Gamiño, approached the stage to photograph the governor as he drummed and danced.

The governor then decided to organise a contest to raffle off a house among the theatre's waiters. At that point, a security guard approached Robledo Gamiño, demanded he stop taking photographs, and escorted him back to his table.

Robledo Gamiño identified himself, upon which the guard then threatened to take away his camera. Moments later, a second guard approached the photojournalist to say that he had given an order to not take photographs. The guard refused to identify either himself or the other guard.

The guards continued watching Robledo Gamiño, and demanded that he put his camera away, threatening to seize it and remove him from the theatre if he did not.

The photojournalist asked a non-uniformed person why he was being prevented from working. That person told him that he would check with Carolina Rincón, the Aguascalientes state communications coordinator. Upon returning, he told Robledo Gamiño that photographs could not be taken because the event was "private". However, the event was part of the state of Aguascaliente's most important celebration, and was being held in a public theatre. The person refused to identify himself, saying that the photojournalist was a "nobody" and that if he continued photographing the event, "we'll put you in restraints and take away the camera."

He also said that the governor's spokeswoman had said that that the photojournalist "was not on duty," to which Robledo Gamiño replied that he was on duty 24 hours a day.

The threats continued until the contest was over and the governor had given away three houses, obtained with public funds, to the waiters. The guards and the non-uniformed person then left the "Proceso" photographer alone.

As of 29 April, no Aguascalientes official has offered any explanation of why photographs cannot be taken of the governor at public events in public buildings, such as the show in the Víctor Sandoval theatre, Robledo Gamiño told CEPET. He is considering filing a formal complaint with the authorities.

Robledo Gamiño is a member of CEPET's Free Expression Network, which monitors acts of aggression against Mexican journalists, and is CEPET's contact person in Aguascalientes.

Another politician belonging to the PAN, Jalisco Governor Emilio González Márquez, has also been hostile to the press, lambasting them for having criticised him for donating public funds to the Catholic church.

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