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Journalist receives death threats from police officers

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 15 November 2009, Manuel Morales, a correspondent for "El Sol de Tabasco" and "El Heraldo de Chiapas", was the target of death threats from federal police officers in Ixtapangajoya, Chiapas state, in southeastern Mexico. Morales was taking photographs of a police checkpoint that had been installed at a highway intersection when the incident took place.

According to the journalist, he took a taxi to the municipality of Ixtapangajoya to cover a demonstration by residents of the La Gloria cooperative, who were complaining that the mayor, Lorenzo Hernández Alvarado, had not fulfilled his promises, had abandoned electricity and road maintenance projects and was ignoring education and health issues.

Upon arrival at the intersection located on the road between Pichucalco, Chiapas, and Teapa, Tabasco, Morales noticed the presence of a federal police checkpoint, where officers were checking over the documents of drivers. When Morales took out his equipment to begin taking photographs, one of the officers started walking towards him and, with his hand on the gun at his waist, asked Morales for identification.

Even though the journalist explained that he was only interested in taking a photograph to show the presence of the federal police on the region's roads, the officer took him to a patrol car. The officer then seized Morales's "El Sol de Tabasco" employee identification and told him, with gun in hand, that he would kill him if he did not stop taking photographs.

Afraid of what might happen to him, Morales hoped that another journalist would pass by on the way to covering the protests in Ixtapangajoya and would notice him. However, this did not happen, so Morales decided to call for help and took flight, looking for shelter in the homes of people living nearby. The officers then got into their vehicle and stopped him, warning him that they would detain him if he continued to take photographs.

The journalist said that neither the Pichucalco District Attorney's Office, nor the regional branch of the National Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la Republica, PGR) initiated an investigation into the incident. As such, Morales spoke with Chiapas Attorney General Raciel López Salazar, asking him to instruct justice officials in Pichucalco to provide support to Morales in the filing of his complaint.

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