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Ten journalists attacked in nine days in Oaxaca

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Mexico City, March 8, 2012 – Since February 26th ten journalists have been attacked in Oaxaca by protesters and security forces, while covering protests in three municipalities.

On March 6th members of the Santa Cruz Municipal Police Xoxocotlán, located 5 km from the state capital of Oaxaca, beat and sprayed journalists from several local media outlets with tear gas while they were covering the eviction of protesters blocking the streets.

Following orders from the local mayor José Julio Antonio Aquino, the security forces used batons, shields and tear gas to break up the protest. Reporters and photographers from media that were covering the eviction were also beaten by the local police, despite showing their press badges.

Among the journalists harassed were: Esteban Marcial, from Noticias; Jesús Cruz Porras, from the weekly Proceso; Othón Garcia, from Rotativo; José Cortés, Telemundo; Jorge Arturo Pérez Alfonzo, photographer of La Jornada; and Alexander Villafañe, from El Imparcial, who had to be taken to a hospital for medical treatment after the beating he suffered.

On March 5th Hugo Alberto Velasco, photographer from Notimex, a State agency, was attacked by members of a political group while he was reporting a road blockage in the capital city of Oaxaca, after a group was harassing journalists and drivers. His equipment was damaged. Also Jose Luis Lopez, from Diario del Istmo; and Connie Balgorria and Esteban Ramón Hernández, of Meganoticias, were attacked in Salina Cruz (190 km from Oaxaca City) while covering protests in the town on February 26th and March 5th respectively.

ARTICLE 19 condemns the attacks against the journalists, which violates their right to freedom of expression and to seek and disseminate information of public interest. Also we are concerned at the slow action of the authorities to stop the attacks, and mainly for their direct responsibility in one attack, when they had an obligation to ensure freedom of expression and the right to information.

We call on local authorities to conduct a diligent investigation of the attacks and punish those responsible. We call particularly the government of Gabino Cué to provide security guarantees so journalists can do their jobs.

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