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Newspaper's staff members receive death threat after reporting on drug traffickers; military personnel assault journalists

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 28 May 2009, staff members for the "El Diario" newspaper, which is based in Ciudad Juárez, received death threats after publishing information about alleged drug traffickers in the municipality of Parral, Chihuahua state, northern Mexico.

According to Pedro Torres Estrada, the newspaper's assistant director, on 22 May "El Diario" published an article about the detention in Parral of the presumed second-in-command of the Sinaloa cartel, which is lead by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán. The article included detailed information that had been provided by the National Public Prosecutor's Office.

On 28 May, an unidentified individual phoned the "El Diario" office in Parral and issued a warning to the secretary, telling the newspaper to stop publishing information about the arrest and threatening to kill the secretary and a reporter.

The directors of "El Diario" decided to refrain from publishing more information about the arrest after evaluating the level of vulnerability of their six staff members in Parral.

In a separate incident, José Luis González Palacios, a photojournalist for "El Diario", was assaulted by army personnel in the city of Chihuahua while he was covering a vehicular accident on 4 June.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. (local time), a convoy carrying military personnel struck a state police patrol vehicle, injuring four people. González Palacios said that, when he arrived at the scene of the accident, he noticed that the military personnel were acting very aggressively towards members of the media and that they were having difficulties taking photographs.

"I said to them, 'Calm down, we're just doing our work.' When I approached the scene, however, one of them struck me on the back with his weapon. Immediately afterwards, five more flung themselves on top of me, throwing me to the ground," González Palacios said. The photojournalist noted that one of the army officers, who was apparently high ranking, also hit him while he was on the ground. The military personnel also pushed camera operators from channels 44 and 2, as well as a photographer from "PM" newspaper. They also confiscated the photographer's equipment.

As a result of these actions, the directors of "El Diario" announced that they will publicly denounce the assault and call on the authorities to stop carrying out these types of actions and instead ensure that journalists can safely carry out their work.

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