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Government official assaults reporter

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 13 February 2010, René Gómez Dzib, a reporter for the Canal 13 television station operated by Televisión Yucateca, was assaulted by Inés Antonia Canul Uc, a government official who works at the state level for the Social Development Secretariat (SEDESOL). The incident took place in the municipality of Valladolid, in Yucatán state, when Gómez Dzib was covering a story about the misuse of resources from a poverty alleviation programme called Oportunidades.

According to Johnny Oliver Quintal, the television station's news director, prior to the incident members of both the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) had complained that SEDESOL employees in several municipalities were carrying out propaganda work for the National Action Party (PAN) and were putting conditions on the delivery of assistance from the public programme in the run up to elections scheduled for 16 May.

Gómez Dzib went to Valladolid to verify the complaints of residents from the neighbourhood of San Juan, who said that they were being pressured to hand over their elections cards. Upon arrival, Gómez Dzib found SEDESOL employees apparently in the process of collecting a list of individuals who would be beneficiaries of the government programme. He began filming and approached Canul Uc in order to interview her.

When Gómez Dzib asked Canul Uc about the alleged use of the federal assistance programme for electoral purposes, she responded aggressively and began slapping him. She managed to grab his video camera from him and attempted to erase the footage he had taken. Gómez Dzib asked municipal police officers to come to his rescue. The officers took both the reporter and Canul Uc to the local Public Prosecutor's Office, where Gómez Dzib filed a complaint for assault and robbery.

Canul Uc was released after paying a 10,000 peso fine (approx. US$800). On 2 March, federal Congressman Rolando Zapata Bello presented a request to the Special Commission on Attacks on Journalists and Media Outlets (Comisión Especial de Seguimiento a las Agresiones a Periodistas y Medios de Comunicación), calling for an investigation into the actions against Gómez Dzib.

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