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Human rights commission issues recommendation regarding detention and inhumane treatment of journalists

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 17 August 2009, the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) issued a recommendation to National Defence Secretary Guillermo Galván Galván regarding an incident involving four journalists that took place on 7 August 2007. The four journalists, Manuel Acosta Villarreal and Sinhué Samaniego Osorio, of the "Zócalo" newspaper, Jesús Arnoldo González Meza, of the daily "La Voz", and José Alberto Rodríguez Reyes, of the Núcleo Radio Televisión Canal 4 television station, were covering a military operation in Monclova, Coahuila, northern Mexico, when they were detained, held incommunicado and treated in a degrading manner by 17 Mexican Army soldiers.

The journalists were not carrying their press cards at the time of the incident but they were traveling in vehicles and wearing clothing that bore the insignia of their respective media outlets. While in detention, they were interrogated, beaten and accused of possession of drugs and illegal firearms, as well as of being members of a criminal group.

A judge subsequently dismissed the case against the journalists, after determining that there was insufficient evidence to justify the accusations against them. In addition, analyses conducted by the CNDH revealed contradictions between the evidence in the case and the version provided by military personnel.

The National Defence Secretariat consistently refused to allow CNDH personnel to interview the soldiers involved in the detention of the journalists. In addition, the Federal Public Ministry also opened a preliminary investigation regarding abuse of authority in the case but military personnel archived it, saying that any criminal legal action was negated by the fact that the individual in charge of the military operation had died. This then hindered the application of legal action against the other 16 soldiers involved in the incident.

In its recommendation, the CNDH urged the defence secretary to provide compensation for damages to the journalists, given that many of their rights had been violated, including their right to freedom of expression.

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