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Newspaper files complaint against mayor for issuing death threats, assaulting a reporter

(CEPET/IFEX) - The weekly "Mi Ciudad" and Carlos Durán Rangel, a reporter and photographer for the newspaper, have filed a complaint against Felipe Durán Muñoz, mayor of the Romita municipality in Guanajuato state and a member of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN). The mayor is accused of issuing death threats, causing injury and damaging equipment.

The editor-in-chief of "Mi Ciudad," Juan Antonio Zavala Hernández, told CEPET that the weekly had published a number of comments by Romita citizens who questioned the mayor's administration, as well as photographs of the mayor while he was drunk. Municipal employees provided the newspaper with the photos.

The mayor has had previous run-ins with the newspaper, namely when he sued "Mi Ciudad" for extortion and damaging his reputation. However, the lawsuit was dropped since the mayor could not provide proof of the alleged crimes.

In early December 2008, the weekly's editor received a threatening phone call in which he was told to "stop publishing lies because your lives are in danger." Zavala Hernández said that although the caller did not identify himself, he recognised the voice as the mayor's.

Two days later, reporter Durán Rangel was assaulted by the mayor when he went to do a publicity photo shoot at Salón Santa Cruz that the mayor's office had previously authorised.

"I asked the organisers what they wanted me to focus on and started working. After I took a few pictures, Felipe Durán appeared and he hit me on the back. He grabbed my camera, threw it on the ground and stepped on it," the journalist said.

The mayor, who appeared to be drunk, then starting punching the journalist, insulting him and threatening him. Durán Rangel suffered some damage to his knee.

The mayor reportedly told the journalist, "you better stop publishing (photographs of me) because you are going to regret it. You don't know what might happen; I can even have you killed."

One of the mayor's relatives, Ismael Ramírez García, who was accompanying him that night, removed the memory card from the journalist's camera and held on to it. The police eventually intervened and ordered the journalist to leave, Durán Rangel said.

When he was questioned by a local newspaper, the mayor said he was not aware of the incident and suggested that the journalist may have been drunk and mistaken about who assaulted him.

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