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Security force actions against journalists on the rise in Chihuahua

(CEPET/IFEX) - The number of actions perpetrated by security force personnel against journalists in the state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico, continues to rise. In the week of 8 to 14 June 2009, five new incidents of this type took place. On the morning of 14 June, Adrián García Villalba and Filiberto Ortiz Vázquez, a reporter and news director respectively for the daily "El Observador", were assaulted and subsequently arrested by officers from the Chihuahua municipal Public Security Unit.

The incident took place when the two journalists were covering a confrontation between residents of the Martín López neighbourhood and municipal police, García Villalba said. Previously, the residents had called for assistance from the police when a fight between gang members took place in the neighbourhood. However, the residents became angry when it took nearly an hour for the police to arrive at the scene. When the residents complained about the delay, the police began to beat them. García Villalba and Ortiz Vázquez managed to photograph the assault by the police officers on the residents. However, when the police officers realised they were being photographed, they turned on the journalists.

"The police officers insulted us, seized our cameras, and then handcuffed us and put us in their vehicle. At one point, they transferred us to another vehicle, then drove us around for about one hour before taking us to the southern prison. They locked us up and showed us as they were erasing the memory from our cameras," García Villalba said.

The journalists were released four hours later, after paying a fine of 300 pesos (approx. US$23). They were warned not to try to take any sort of action against the officers. García Villalba and Ortiz Vázquez filed a complaint about the officers' actions with the State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos) and the municipal police's internal affairs office (Asuntos Internos de la Policía Municipal).

In a separate incident, on 11 June in Ciudad Juárez, a group of military personnel hindered Gabriela Téllez, a reporter for the local Canal 44 television station, and the cameraman who was accompanying her from providing coverage of an incident in which a number of people were injured in an attack on a motel. The soldiers pushed Téllez and the cameraman to stop them from getting close to the scene of the incident. Municipal police officer then interrogated them, took photographs and obtained video footage of their vehicles' licence plates.

Finally, a cameraman from the Televisa company's Canal 2 television station was restrained by municipal police officers when he was filming, from a rooftop, the excavation by authorities of a site in search of human remains in the La Raza neighbourhood of Ciudad Juárez. The cameraman was taken down from the rooftop despite the fact that he had respected the police cordon that had been erected. The police officers' actions were captured on film by a camera installed in the mast of another television station's antenna.

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