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Security guards assault journalists during festival in Oaxaca

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 27 July 2009, reporters who attempted to cover the Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, were assaulted by private security guards.

José Luis Jerónimo Cruz, a photojournalist for the Cuadratín news agency, said that when the reporters tried to gain access to the festival grounds to take photographs of the event, security guards on contract with the Ticketmaster company prevented them from entering. The security guards said they had been instructed not to let the journalists enter.

The reporters showed their journalism credentials granted by the state Tourism Secretariat but the security guards still refused to allow them to proceed. "We all agreed to withdraw. Then we attempted to talk to the state governor, Ulises Ruíz, who was there, but his security guards refused to let us get close to him," Jerónimo Cruz said.

Jerónimo Cruz also added that only reporters from local media outlets were refused entry, correspondents from international news agencies were allowed to enter. "One of our colleagues (Román Carlos Velasco, of the "Noticias" newspaper) managed to get close, but the security personnel tried to snatch his camera and it fell to the ground in the struggle. When he was picking up the camera, they pushed him backwards. Without meaning to, he hit a guard and a brawl ensued."

In the midst of the clash, photographer Alejandro Pablo Nicolás's nose was broken. According to the photojournalist, state government officials finally intervened and the private security guards left the scene, after which security issues were covered by the state police force.

Jerónimo Cruz said that Claudia Vázquez, the Oaxaca Tourism Secretariat's spokesperson, gave the orders for the journalists to be refused entry to the fair grounds. However, the state government's press coordinator, Raúl Castellanos Hernández, said Ticketmaster was responsible for the assault on the reporters. He said, "We respect the media (. . .) This was an incident that got out of control."

Guadalupe Thomas Ruíz, the Quadratín news agency's editor in Oaxaca, said that the state government has not offered any explanations nor indicated who was responsible for the assault on the reporters. She said, "Since the beginning of the Guelaguetza, an information blackout has been in place. Photographers have to do their work, they can't return to the media outlets for whom they work and say they weren't granted entry. Some of them had their equipment damaged and nobody is assuming responsibility."

In addition to Velasco, from "Noticias", and Nicolás, from "Prensadigital", other reporters who were assaulted include Jorge Luis Plata, from "El Imparcial", Pablo Gómez Santiago, from the daily "PM", and Luis Cruz Hernández, from the "Marca" newspaper and the daily "Milenio Diario".

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