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Police attack journalists covering march in Sinaloa, Mexico

In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo, people march in support of jailed drug boss Joaquin Guzman,
In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo, people march in support of jailed drug boss Joaquin Guzman, "El Chapo" in the city of Culiacán, Mexico

AP Photo/El Debate de Culiacan, Jonathan Telles

Three journalists from the Noreste newspaper were attacked by state and municipal police during marches in the cities of Culiacán and Guamúchil on 2 March 2014 supporting drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

In Culiacán two reporters had their recording equipment taken from them while they were filming police firing into the air in an attempt to disperse protesters.

As he was taking pictures of the bullet casings, a group of about 15 police officers, from the municipal and federal government police forces jumped on a Noroeste photojournalist. He was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. Once immobilized, the officers put a plastic bag over his head and punched him, leaving him with injuries to his head, ribs and legs.

In the same location, a videographer from Noroeste.com was assaulted by four members of the State Preventative Police; they took her filming equipment while she was recording demonstrators fleeing after hearing the gun shots.

A few hours earlier, in the city of Guamúchil, federal government police officers punched and strangled a Noroeste correspondent who was taking pictures of protestors being detained.

These three incidents now bring the total of attacks on Noroeste journalists this month to five. On 23 February more of the outlet's journalists were threatened for investigating possible links between Mazatlán police and the drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Francisco Cauma, from Noroeste, told ARTICLE19 that he was going to file reports about the incidents with the Federal Attorney General and complaints with various human rights commissions. “The police tried to dissuade the protesters in Culiacán, starting very early in the morning, but they were unsuccessful. When gun shots were heard it created chaos amongst the demonstrators. This is when our reporters were attacked,” said Cauma.

ARTICLE19 is worried that local authorities were involved in the arbitrary use of force during public protests. According to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (UN) any act of authority which involves the use of force should be based on the principles of reasonableness and proportionality, especially when it comes to the use of lethal weapons.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) to investigate all attacks against the Noroeste journalists.

The organisation also calls on local and federal authorities to launch the appropriate mechanisms to guarantee the security and physical safety of journalists and Noroeste personnel.

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