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Journalists threatened and assaulted by police in Mexico City and Sinaloa state

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns the aggressiveness of some police officers, particularly at the federal level, after assaults on journalists that took place on 15 July 2008 in Mexico City (Distrito Federal) and in the state of Sinaloa, northwestern Mexico.

On 15 July, in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, approximately 30 police officers from the Federal Preventative Police (Policía Federal Preventiva, PFP) threatened Rafael Leyva Mexía and Luis Vásquez Vega, photographers for the regional dailies "El Diario de Los Mochis" and "Noroeste" respectively, after they took pictures of a police convoy as it left the scene of a demonstration.

The police officers pointed guns at the journalists, whom they accused of being from the "gutter press", before photographing them while insulting them. Other journalists who arrived later where also aggressively questioned and had to leave the area.

Leyva Mexía and Vásquez Vega have both filed complaints with the Sinaloa State Human Rights Commission. One of the two photographers told RSF that, considering that a similar incident involving journalists from the regional daily "El Debate" took place in May, they might also take the case to the Federal Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduría General de la República).

In a second incident, at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on 15 July, judicial police officers in Mexico City, travelling in five vehicles, intercepted journalist Jacobo Velásquez Gordillo and technical staff from TV Azteca, a privately-owned national television station. The journalist and crew were intercepted as they were returning to their studios and were forced at gunpoint to produce their identification documents. The police officers then seized their mobile phones and camera battery, on the pretext that they had allegedly tried to interfere with an investigation. The officers subsequently assaulted Velásquez Gordillo as they tried to force him into the trunk of his car.

The journalist and crew members have filed a complaint for "abuse of authority" with the prosecutor's office responsible for cases dealing with civil servants. The Federal District Human Rights Commission has also issued a complaint, which it is waiting for the journalists to sign.

"This abusive behaviour leaves the press even more vulnerable at a time when it is already exposed to threats from organised crime, particularly in states like Sinaloa which are dominated by the drug cartels," RSF said.

"The safety of Mexican journalists is under threat more than ever and this situation can only worsen still further if the authorities decide for reasons of state to close the cases launched by the victims. The punishment in these cases should be such that it sets an example," the organisation added.

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