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Journalist Dalia Patiño González questioned and harassed by police chief after investigating his department

(CEPET/IFEX) - Reporter Dalia Patiño González, of the "Puntual" newspaper, was questioned and harassed by the director of the Auxiliary Police in Puebla state, central Mexico. The reporter has been looking into the affairs of the police department, in particular the contracts the department was awarded by the state.

As part of her investigation, Patiño González interviewed the department's director, Captain Jorge Morgado Nava. She then approached the Puebla Government Secretariat (Secretaría de Gobierno) to request information on the contracts the state government held with the Auxiliary Police in 2008. She was referred to the secretariat's transparency department.

According to the journalist, on 27 February 2009 she went to the Auxiliary Police offices at around 12:45 p.m. (local time) to collect the information she had asked for. She was directed to a room where Morgado Nava and three individuals were waiting for her. The police chief then began to question Patiño González for about 20 minutes. He asked her why she wanted the information and had the interview that he had granted her not been enough. Finally the police chief excused himself, saying: "It is not that I didn't want to give you the information. I just don't see any point."

Subsequently, the head of the Access to Information Unit (Unidad de Acceso a la Información Pública, UDAPI), Jesús Encinas Sánchez, came into the room and informed the journalist that part of the information she had requested was classified.

The police chief again asked what information the journalist was receiving, while another of the men in the room instructed the UDAPI representative to take down the journalist's information and address.

Patiño González refused to provide her contact information, arguing that she was not required to do so by law. Encinas Sánchez agreed with her but as she was about to leave, Captain Morgado Nava intercepted her again and told her that it was inappropriate for her to ask questions about how much the state spent on security matters.

Patiño González tried to respond but the discussion became heated and she kept quiet. She was finally able to leave but reported feeling very uncomfortable during the whole incident. The journalist also remarked on the fact that the police chief reviewed the information she was to be given before it was handed over to her.

She was approached by a communications officer who apologised to her for the incident and drove her to the access to information and transparency office, where the journalist was able to obtain the information she had requested.

"Puntual" editor-in-chief Miguel Ángel Crisanto Campos condemned the police chief's behaviour and said the paper would stand behind the reporter. "It is important to denounce such actions so they do not continue," he said.

CEPET condemns the intimidation Patiño González faced and notes that attacks on journalists and media outlets are an attack on society because they negatively impact on the public's right to information.

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