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ARTICLE 19, CENCOS and IPYS condemn federal police assaults on four journalists in Culiacán

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IPYS/IFEX) - The following is a 7 May 2008 joint press release of ARTICLE 19, CENCOS and IPYS:

Mexico City, 7 May 2008 - On 6 May 2008, four reporters from "El Debate" newspaper, based in Sinaloa state, were assaulted and threatened with murder by Federal Preventive Police (Policía Federal Preventiva, PFP) officers as they tried to cover the setting up of a checkpoint in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa state. The checkpoint was part of a series of anti-narcotics operations currently being undertaken by the Mexican federal government. When the police noticed that Giovanni Elizalde, Leo Espinoza, Torivio Bueno and fourth journalist were taking photographs, they reacted violently, even though the four informed the police that they were journalists. Approximately 10 officers surrounded the journalists and aimed their rifles at them.

The incident began when one of the reporters took some photographs. The police responded by chasing him back to the newspaper's headquarters, nearby. Approximately 20 officers surrounded the newspaper building then entered in search of the reporter. Meanwhile, another group of federal police illegally and unjustifiably detained Bueno, taking him to a patrol car where they beat him and verbally abused him in a very aggressive manner for several minutes. They then released him onto one of Culiacán's main streets.

Bueno told CENCOS that "Journalists are always afraid, in the back of their minds. We don't know how they (the PFP) are going to react; anyone could be the next victim." This comment is indicative of the increasingly adverse climate for journalists and the general lack of safety in the region, which negatively affects society's right to be informed.

The undersigned organisations strongly condemn these incidents, due to the fact that they undermine the full exercise of the rights to free expression and press freedom, given that any restriction on these fundamental rights should be stipulated by the law to prevent their arbitrary and discriminatory use.

ARTICLE 19, CENCOS, IPYS and the Press and Democracy Foundation (Fundación Prensa y Democracia, PRENDE) reiterate their call for the Mexican state to adopt the measures needed for the national security forces to protect and respect citizens' right to fully exercise freedom of expression and press freedom, in accordance with international human rights agreements and standards.

PRENDE is a civil society organisation promoting the development of journalists' professional skills through education and training, as well as research on communication media in Mexico.

Updates the Espinoza, Elizalde and Bueno case:

Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad

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