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Judicial police officers assault photojournalists José Antonio León Castañares and Oscar Bolaños Herrera

(CEPET/IFEX) - José Antonio León Castañares and Oscar Bolaños Herrera, photojournalists respectively for the "La Jornada Oriente" and "Síntesis" newspapers, were assaulted by judicial police officers while they were covering a confrontation between residents of the municipality of Santa María La Alta, in the state of Puebla, in central México.

The incident took place at midday on 8 April 2009, when residents of the community detained an alleged thief, locked him in the town hall and threatened to lynch him. Local authorities arrived at the scene to attempt to free the man. When a group of police officers arrived, however, a confrontation ensued. According to León Castañares, the police officers finally managed to gain control of the situation.

At approximately 7:00 p.m. (local time) the police officers accompanied the alleged criminal out of the town hall. Several residents then began to harass them and another confrontation took place. According to León Castañares, the police officers responded by throwing teargas canisters and shooting their firearms. The photojournalist said that he was taking photographs of the confrontation when a police officer approached him and told him to stop. When he continued taking photographs, another police officer approached and assaulted him. "He told me to leave and he lifted his club. I told him to stop threatening me and he hit me twice with the club. I managed to dodge the club the third time he tried to strike me, but it hit my camera. When I saw another police officer coming, I ran about four metres. They then started throwing stones at me."

León Castañares said that his colleague from the daily "Síntesis", Bolaños Herrera, was also assaulted by the police officers.

Claudia Espinosa García, "Síntesis"'s managing editor, confirmed that Bolaños Herrera was assaulted and said that the photojournalist had a wound on his back that appeared to be from the impact of a rubber bullet.

CEPET condemns the assault on the two photojournalists. The organisation considers all attacks on journalists and media outlets to be attacks on society as a whole since they jeopardise the right of citizens to receive information.

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