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Soldier threatens photojournalist with gun

(CEPET/IFEX) - 4 April 2010 - On 21 March 2010, a photojournalist from a news website was threatened by a soldier in the Mexican army. The photojournalist, whose name has not been made public, was trying to take pictures after an armed attack on a police station in the city of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico, when the soldier threatened the photojournalist with a gun.

According to local reports, soldiers from the Fifth Military Unit were called to the police station after receiving a call for help from municipal workers there after someone fired shots at the building they were in. When journalists arrived at the scene, the soldiers attempted to prevent them from reporting on the incident and demanded that they stop taking photographs. Only one reporter obeyed the order.

Another reporter, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, said that one journalist began taking pictures when a soldier approached him and while pointing at him with a gun, demanded that he stop taking pictures.

The reporter then took a picture of the soldier who threatened him. The soldier demanded that the journalist hand over his camera and unsuccessfully tried to erase the picture. The photograph was published in the 23 March edition of "El Diario", a Chihuahua newspaper.

In response to the photograph, the commander of the Fifth Military Unit wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper, explaining that the journalist had surprised the soldier when the camera's flash went off, and that the soldier has respectfully asked the photojournalist to stop taking pictures because it affected the soldiers' night vision and therefore put them at risk.

The commander's explanation was refuted by a tape that showed that the incident did not take place on a dark street but rather an area that was illuminated by street lamps and close to shops. The tape also recorded the conversation between the soldier and the photojournalist who was assaulted.

The College of Journalists in Chihuahua State condemned aggressive behaviour by military personnel that prevents journalists from carrying out their work. In a press release, the organisation demanded that the army be sensitive to journalists' work, "because just as the army is doing its job, so too are journalists doing their job to inform the public."

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