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Photographer illegally detained

(CEPET/IFEX) - Rafael Del Río Chávez, a photographer with "Proceso" magazine, reported that he was unjustifiably detained by Guadalajara municipal police in Jalisco, western Mexico, and locked in a "cage" for four hours on 26 April 2009.

Del Río Chávez said that around 4:00 p.m. (local time) he was at home in the El Santuario neighbourhood when he heard the sirens of police cars.

His journalistic curiosity drew him to go see what was happening. When he arrived he saw that the police had detained a youth and he began taking pictures of the incident. The police became annoyed when they noticed that the photographer was taking pictures.

"The police came over and surrounded me, pushing me toward their patrol car. They said, 'You want good pictures? Get closer!' I told them I was a reporter for 'Proceso' and that I was working, but they took away my camera and handcuffed my hands behind my back," said Del Río Chávez.

While handcuffed, Del Río Chávez was put inside a patrol car and driven to the municipal police station. The vehicle was stopped by the Zone 1 police chief and Del Río Chávez was asked who he was and why he was taking pictures. The photographer explained the situation, but the chief said he was not able to do anything and that he would have to appear before a judge.

When he arrived at the police station, instead of appearing before a judge Del Río Chávez was locked in an outdoor cage at the municipal jail.

"They kept me there from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. in what looked like cage for dogs. I had to stay there for hours in the blazing sun. The lawyer assigned to my case never took my statement and the municipal judge never heard my version of events," said Del Río Chávez.

After he was released, Del Río Chávez's lawyer finally told him that he had been detained for resisting the police and that he would have to pay a fine of 67 pesos (approx. US$5). The photographer's camera was returned to him, but he discovered that all his photos had been erased.

Del Río Chávez said that the Jaliso State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos de Jalisco, CEDHJ) filed a complaint against the officers of patrol G-1018, and that he personally submitted a report to the Internal Affairs bureau of the municipal police.

The spokesperson for the Guadalajara police, Jorge Eduardo Montiel González, explained in a press release that Del Río Chávez was detained for trying to stop the detention of "his brother-in-law/friend." However, after being questioned about this version of events, the photographer maintained that he was not related in any way to the detained individual nor was he trying to obstruct the work of the police.

"My work as a photographer is only to witness events and document them through photographs. I was a few metres back from the police officers at all times and when they saw me taking photos, I identified myself right away as a journalist and showed them my accreditation as a photographer for 'Proceso'", said Del Río Chávez.

In a subsequent interview, Montiel González said that, according to the account given by the police officers involved in the incident, Del Río Chávez was trying to hinder their work and he got closer to them than is permitted. When asked if Del Río Chávez tried to intervene to assist the youth who was being detained, he admitted that this had not happened. Also, when asked why the photographer was not taken to appear before a judge immediately, he said that administrative procedure had to be followed and that Del Río Chávez had to wait his turn. Finally, he said that he was present when the camera was returned and that the photographer did not mention that his pictures had been erased.

"Proceso" Jalisco's news director, Felipe Cobián Rosales, described the journalist's detention as arbitrary and a violation of free expression. "I know him and I am certain that he was doing his work. He is incapable of obstructing a police operation", Cobián Rosales said.

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