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Police officers assault a reporter and photographer from the daily "El Economista"

(CEPET/IFEX) - Omar Brito Báez and David Rojas, a reporter and photographer, respectively, for the daily "El Economista", were assaulted by municipal and state police officers as they were gathering information about a 5 June 2009 fire at a daycare centre that took the lives of 47 children in Hermosillo, Sonora state, northern Mexico.

On 19 June, Brito Báez and Rojas arrived at the site of the ABC day care and asked the individuals in charge of a business next door for permission to take photographs from the roof of their building. When four police officers realised that Rojas was on the roof of the building, they confronted him and then physically subdued him. They told him that he had breached the police security perimeter and tried to get him to erase the memory from his camera.

When the photographer refused to erase the photographs from his camera, the police officers applied pressure to his arm to force him to hand over his equipment. Rojas, however, resisted their efforts and managed to hand the camera over to Brito Báez. The officers then turned on Brito Báez and attempted, unsuccessfully, to snatch the camera from him. While this was taking place, another group of municipal police officers arrived at the scene.

"We identified ourselves as journalists. We did not breach the security perimeter and the building from which Rojas was taking pictures was private property. There was no reason for them to detain us. They held us for about a half hour," Brito Báez said. The journalists were not allowed to continue with their work after being freed.

According to one of the newspaper's editors, Ricardo Barraza Gómez, "El Economista" managers communicated with the state public prosecutor, Abel Murrieta Gutiérrez, who said that he had given the police instructions and, as such, would take responsibility for what had taken place.

Brito Báez and Rojas have filed a complaint regarding the police officers' actions with the Sonora State Human Rights Commission.

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