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Journalists and protesters detained, assaulted in Mexico City

(Cencos/IFEX) - 3 December 2012 - During protests on 1 December 2012 against the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto as president of Mexico, various reporters, photojournalists and ordinary citizens, trying to document and report on the demonstrations, were physically assaulted and arbitrarily detained by several police forces during the seven hours of protests.

The use of rubber bullets by federal police was documented and activist Juan Francisco "Kuy" Kendall, 67, suffered a brain injury after being struck by one. He was just one of 105 people injured. Twenty-nine people required hospital treatment and nine of them were transferred to the Mexican Red Cross central hospital in Polanco.

Confrontations began outside the Legislative Palace in San Lázaro where 5,000 federal police officers had been stationed for a few days to prevent protestors from getting into the compound. Later riot police surrounded the demonstrators in the historic district near the Palace of Fine Arts. This is where most of the detentions and attacks on citizens took place.

Photojournalist Quetzalli González, an Excélsior contributor, was hit in the face with a tear gas canister lobbed by the police. Her brother refuted suggestions that she had been injured by protestors.

Óscar Balmen, an El Universal reporter, said his mobile phone was stolen by members of the presidential guard. He had been taking photos of tear gas bombs and was injured and suffered from the effects of the gas.

Mircea Ioan Topoleanu, an independent journalist originally from Romania, was photographing a protest before he was detained by Federal District police, who also assaulted him and confiscated his camera. The attorney general, Jesús Rodríguez Almeida, confirmed his detention and said that Topoleanu had been disturbing "peace in the city".

Tania Molina Ramírez, a La Jornada journalist, said she was arbitrarily arrested after a hotel employee singled her out for taking pictures of the destruction the protests had caused.

Journalism student Silvia Lee Rábago was threatened and chased by police for using her laptop to film students who had been detained.

It is necessary to investigate and punish those responsible for the numerous attacks on the press and ordinary citizens who were using their cameras to document what was going on. Police used riot shields to try to prevent people from filming and asked them to stop what they were doing - both acts that violate the right to transmit and share information.

It is clear that the various security forces acted beyond the limitations of the law and used indiscriminate and excessive force, and violated human rights, including the right to free expression.

Cencos calls on federal authorities and the capital city government to not let the police go unpunished. According to information from human rights organisations, civil society and media outlets, the bodies that were involved in the alleged violations were the Presidential Guard, the Metropolitan riot police, federal police and investigations officers from the Federal District's attorney general's office.

If these abuses are to go unpunished, it will represent misunderstanding on the part of Enrique Peña Nieto's government in terms of freedom of expression, as well as set a precedent of impunity that will seriously affect the relationship between the state forces and the journalism community.

Cencos and their partner Comunicación e Información de la Mujer (CIMAC) also call on the government of Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón, head of the Federal District, to investigate the police with the same determination as the protestors.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

What other IFEX members are saying:

Call for release of two journalists arrested during inauguration (Reporters without Borders)

Photographer Brandon Daniel Bazán, a freelancer working for the magazine Café MX was also arrested and is being held in the city's Reclusorio Norte prison. Bazán has already been charged with disturbing the peace, which could mean a prison sentence.

What other IFEX members are saying

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China: Civil society groups and scholars demand release of Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti @pen_int @hongkongpen

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