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Police officers confiscate photojournalist's camera

(CEPET/IFEX) - Silvestre Juárez Arce, a photojournalist for the daily "El Diario de Chihuahua", has said that he was assaulted and had his camera confiscated by officers from the Ministerial Investigations Police Department in the state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico. At the time of the incident, Juárez Arce was attempting to take photographs of a woman who was carrying out a protest outside the Central Zone building of the state Deputy Attorney General's Office (Subprocuraduría de Justicia).

Juárez Arce said that, on 2 September 2009, at approximately 9:00 (local time), he attempted to cover the protest being carried out by the woman, who had taken her clothes off as a way to demonstrate against the lack of progress in the investigation into the assassination of her son.

"I noticed that the police officers were not letting reporters approach, so I came around via a different street and I was able to take pictures of the woman who was protesting. When the police officers saw me, one of them approached and pointed his weapon at me. He told me that I could not take photographs and that he would arrest me if I did not leave," Juárez Arce said. Several other police officers then approached in order to take the protester away, while the officer who had threatened Juárez Arce covered the lens of his camera to prevent him from taking more photographs.

"I ran and was able to take more pictures. Then they snatched the camera. I immediately filed a complaint (with the local Public Ministry branch) and they returned my camera to me an hour later," Juárez Arce said, while noting that the photographs he had taken had been erased.

Juárez Arce subsequently filed an abuse of authority complaint with the State Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Ministry. The deputy attorney general, Carlos Mario Jiménez Holguín, apologised to Juárez Arce and "El Diario de Chihuahua", and promised to investigate the incident and punish those who were responsible for it. Raúl Lechuga, the daily's news director, said that police actions against journalists who are carrying out their work take place on a regular basis, especially in situations involving ministerial police officers.

Julio César Aguilar Fuentes, a photojournalist for "El Diario" in Ciudad Juárez, said that, on the same day, federal police officers threatened him with their firearms while he was carrying out his work.

CEPET has documented several cases of actions against journalists carried out by security force personnel in Chihuahua.

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