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Soldiers harass camera operator

(CEPET/IFEX) - On the afternoon of 22 March 2010 Mexican army personnel harassed a Canal 44 television station camera operator while he was attempting to film the detention of alleged criminals in the Héroes de la Revolución neighbourhood of Ciudad Juárez, in the state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico.

The camera operator was travelling in a vehicle bearing the Canal 44 logo and name in an area where someone had reportedly just been murdered. When the camera operator failed to see anything taking place, he entered a street where he found a group of soldiers carrying out an arrest of several alleged criminals.

According to the camera operator, when the commander of the military unit saw him, he approached and began loudly asking him why he was there, saying, "Are you going to ask us questions? What authority do you have? Who's been talking to you?" Along with three solders under his command, the officer tried to get the camera operator to get out of his vehicle. The camera operator, who name is not being revealed, then put out a call for help to other reporters via his two-way radio. The soldiers reacted by grabbing the radio and trying to make him get into one of the pickup trucks where they had put the individuals that they were arresting.

The camera operator managed to film the soldiers' actions and his television station aired the footage on their 23 March evening news programme. The footage shows a soldier repeatedly attempting to get the camera operator to put the camera down, while another soldier keeps telling him to get into their pickup truck.

The exchange between the soldiers and the camera operator went on for several minutes. Near the end of the film footage, before the soldiers finally managed to get the microphone switched off, one of them is heard telling the camera operator that they will detain him for what he has in his vehicle, implying that he had committed a crime.

In an interview with CEPET, the camera operator said that the soldiers finally stopped harassing him when other reporters arrived, answering his call for help. He said that in the struggle with the soldiers he received some bruises and his right hand was slightly injured.

Canal 44 has filed a complaint with the National Defence Secretariat, which released a statement on 24 March saying that it is investigating the incident. The directors of Canal 44 have said that they will await the results of the National Defence Secretariat investigation, but that if a satisfactory response is not provided they will consider initiating legal action against those responsible for the actions against the camera operator.

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