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Journalist detained after insulting mayor

(CEPET/IFEX) - Simón Tiburcio Chávez, editor of the local paper "Nuevo Amanecer", reported that he was unjustifiably detained by municipal police on orders of the mayor of Alvarado, Veracruz, in Eastern Mexico.

The journalist said that on 9 May 2009 he was attending a public event in the La Fuente neighbourhood organized by the Alvarado mayor's office to celebrate the Día del Niño (Day of the Child). Mayor Bogar Ruiz Rosas, who is a member of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), was also at the event and when he saw Tiburcio Chávez he told police to detain him, without providing a reason.

"The mayor saw me and called the police. He saw me and laughed. The police broke my camera and scratched my glasses," said Tiburcio Chávez.

The journalist said that two days before he was detained he had published a news article criticising Ruiz Rosas's administration, including details on how it owes money for lighting and water bills for city hall as well as how Ruiz Rosas has used public funds for personal use.

"I knew that the police had been looking for me. They took me to a room where I was confined and they kept me there, unable to communicate with anyone, from 8 p.m. (local time) on 9 May until 9 p.m. the next day."

On 9 May, Tiburcio Chávez's family submitted a complaint for illegal detention to the state prosecutor's office.

Víctor Manuel Hernández Carranza, the Public Ministry official in charge of the investigation, said that the family's complaint regarding the journalist's detention was presented at 11 p.m. on 9 May, while municipal authorities made the formal notification of this detention at 3:45 p.m. on 10 May, when the mayor filed a complaint for "insult to authority" against Tiburcio Chávez alleging that he had offended him.

Ruiz Rosas told CEPET that the journalist was detained after he insulted the mayor in public, saying that it was not the first time that he had done it and that the paper Tiburcio Chávez works for is funded by the opposing Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) candidates. "I respect freedom of expression, but authorities deserve respect," he said.

The Veracruz State Commission for the Defense of Journalists (Comisión Estatal para la Defensa de los Periodistas de Veracruz, CEDEP), a independent body, supports Tiburcio Chávez's position and calls his detention "underhanded and unjustified". Manuel Vázquez Corral, CEDEP's legal analyst and lawyer, stressed that there was no arrest warrant issued, nor should he have been held incommunicado.

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