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Municipal employees hinder distribution of daily, assault and threaten editor

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 4 and 5 September 2009, municipal employees on the island of Isla Mujeres, in the state of Quintana Roo, southeastern Mexico, hindered the distribution of the "Diario Respuesta" newspaper. Alejandro Vargas González, the newpaper's editorial director, reported that several of the municipal employees also assaulted and threatened him.

When the newspaper's distributors arrived on the island on 4 September, they were surrounded by several individuals who would not let them get out of their vehicle. They were told to return to where they had come from and that they would not be allowed to distribute the newspaper the following day either.

After receiving news of the incident from the newspaper's distributors, Vargas González decided to go to the island himself in order to find out what the problem was. As such, on 5 September, he accompanied the newspaper distributors.

"We arrived at 5:00 a.m. (local time). Everything was quiet (. . .), but we had barely gone 100 metres when a group of people surrounded our vehicle and began to hurl insults at us. I tried to talk to them, but they said, 'Get out of here, we're going to throw you off the island.' At that point, I grabbed a bundle of newspapers in order to distribute them, but then several women jumped on me. They pulled my hair, scratched me and knocked me down. There were about 30 of them. Meanwhile, the men in the group threatened us, saying they would kill us if we returned," Vargas González said.

During the assault, several of the editor's assailants complained about the publication of articles against the municipal government. They destroyed 500 copies of the newspaper. According to Vargas González, several police officers witnessed the incident but did nothing to protect the "Diario Respuesta" personnel.

Vargas González said that "Diario Respuesta" recently published a series of citizen complaints and journalistic investigations into mismanagement issues within the municipality, which is lead by Mayor Alicia Ricalde Magaña, of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN). He also said that preliminary investigations have revealed that the individuals who acted against the newspaper personnel were municipal employees.

The directors of "Diario Respuesta" filed a complaint for injuries and damages with the Attorney General's Office and Vargas González said that they know the names of the all individuals involved in the actions against the newspaper's employees.

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