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Reporter assaulted, robbed by individuals presumed to be political party supporters

(CEPET/IFEX) - Anwar Castillo Domínguez, a reporter for the "AZ" newspaper, said he was assaulted and robbed by individuals believed to be National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) supporters in Xalapa, Veracruz state, southern Mexico. At the time of the incident, Castillo Domínguez was covering a confrontation between PAN members and a group of Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) supporters during elections held on 5 July 2009.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. (local time) on 5 July, Castillo Domínguez arrived in the Santa Rosa neighbourhood of Xalapa accompanied by the coordinator of the newspaper's police beat, Jorge Amado Morales. The two "AZ" newspaper employees had received information indicating that a confrontation was taking place between supporters of the two political parties after PAN supporters were supposedly caught handing out illegal propaganda favouring their candidate.

Several police officers had arrived at the scene to break up the fight but as soon as they left the political party supporters once again began hitting each other and throwing rocks, Castillo Domínguez said.

"We were already back in our vehicle, but when we saw the fight starting again I got out and began taking photographs from behind a car. All of a sudden I was pushed. There were five of them. They threw me to the ground and kicked me, then they took everything I had on me, two cameras, my telephone, my wallet and some gold jewelry. The items they took from me are worth more than 50,000 pesos (approx. US$3,600)," Castillo Domínguez said.

Police arrived on the scene to rescue the reporter and they managed to detain two of his assailants, while the three others fled the scene.

Amado Morales said the two detained individuals identified themselves as PAN members. He also said the lawyer for the party at the local level, Agustín Hernández Virúes, intervened on behalf of the two PAN members and offered the journalists money in exchange for dropping the charges.

One of Castillo Domínguez's assailants, Gaudencio Báez Rivas, had a badge that identified him as a reporter for the daily "Reforma", which is based in Mexico City. However, after being detained he admitted that he was a PAN supporter and worked for the party. The other assailant was identified as Fredy de Jesús López Romero.

The journalist filed a complaint for damages, theft and injury with the Public Ministry. The National Attorney General's Office has also taken up the case. However, according to Castillo Domínquez, his assailants were freed after paying bail.

As a result of the assault, the "AZ" reporter sustained wounds to his face, neck and abdomen.

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