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State officials involved in four cases of aggression towards journalists in Baja Caifornia Sur

(CEPET/IFEX) - Local legislators and the Journalists without Borders Collective (Colectivo Periodistas sin Fronteras) have demanded that Baja California Sur Governor Narciso Agúndez Montaño implement measures to ensure that journalists can carry out their work in the state. Thus far in 2009, four cases in which state officials have acted aggressively towards journalists have been documented in the northern Mexican state.

Members of congress from the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) and the New Alliance (Nueva Alianza) party issued a statement in the state congress calling on Prosecutor Fernando González Rubio Cerecer and Governor Agúndez Montaño, who is from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), to "stop pursuing, intimidating and harassing" local journalists who criticise government officials. The Journalists without Borders Collective also made a public statement about the cases of the four journalists in question and called on the state governor to take action to ensure that journalists can carry out their work.

On 20 March 2009, journalist Eliseo Zuloaga Canchola, of the "El Peninsular" newspaper, was summoned to appear at the Public Ministry offices in La Paz, the state capital, after he was accused of defamation for having published information about the participation of ministerial police officers in a kidnapping. Zuloaga Canchola said that he had photographs showing the arrest of the police officers by federal agents when they freed the kidnapped individuals on 23 November 2008. He also added that a preliminary investigation has been opened in the case.

On the morning of 1 March 2009, two vehicles belonging to Martín Valtierra García, a Canal 10 television station correspondent and editor of the "Contrates de Comondú" magazine, were burned. Valtierra García said that prior to the burning of the vehicles he had been receiving threats from Jesús Antonio Villegas Martínez, the son of the mayor of Comondú, for having publicised information about allegations of irregularities in the administration of the municipality. Villegas Martínez also acts as a personal secretary to the mayor. The journalist also said he had been receiving anonymous telephone calls in which the caller left threatening messages and that, on several occasions, he had noticed that he was being following. On one occasion he was able to identify the vehicle following him as that of Javier Ríos Morales, who manages a bar together with the mayor's son, about whom Valtierra has also published critical information.

On 24 January, Pamela Gutiérrez Bazán, a journalist for the "La Voz de los Cabos" newspaper, was mistreated by ministerial police officers in the state prosecutor's offices when she was covering a story about a woman's death. The police officers seized her camera and erased the photographs the journalist had taken.

On 13 February, journalist Berenice Rangel, of the Cabo Mil television station, had a discussion with the governor's press coordinator, Antonio Alcántar López. López was preventing reporters from entering a meeting being held by entrepreneurs and told Rangel that she was "an enemy of the government."

CEPET condemns the actions against journalists in Baja California Sur and calls on the state government to ensure that journalists can carry out their work in the region.

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