Reporters Without Borders condemns the continuing police violence against journalists covering demonstrations. In the latest case, riot police beat four photographers and seized their equipment while they were covering the dispersal of teachers occupying a square in Xalapa, capital of the eastern state of Veracruz.
The police arrested a fifth photographer, Juan Alberto Arellano (pictured), during the operation and charged him with illegal carriage of a firearm and “crime against public health,” claiming they had found cannabis and more that 100 packets of cocaine on him.
Along with several Mexican NGOs, Reporters Without Borders expresses grave doubts about the veracity of the allegations against Arellano and calls for his immediate release.
“Abusive treatment of journalists by police during demonstrations will keep on recurring as long as it goes unpunished,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We still want to know whether an investigation is under way into the arrests and mistreatment of four journalists during a demonstration in Mexico City on 1 September.
“The Special Federal Prosecutor’s Office for Violations of Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) should intervene in these cases and should demand cooperation from the relevant authorities in the states concerned, so that these journalists can obtain justice.”
Agence France-Presse photographer Melina Zurita, one of the four media victims of the Xalapa violence, told Reporters Without Borders:
“When I began to take photos of the demonstrators being expelled from the square, I found myself surrounded by around 20 people in civilian dress. One of them hit me, threw me to the ground, grabbed my backpack with all my equipment and handed it to the police, who were clearly colluding in all this. They then kicked me in the face although I was shouting that I was a journalist.
“Finally they lifted me up, escorted me out of the square and ordered me to leave. A pickup truck followed me and a man inside told me to get in, that he had my backpack, but I refused. I was scared that I would become of the journalists who have ‘disappeared”.”
Roger Martínez, the deputy editor of the Imagen del Golfo photo agency, said he was taking photos when the police began chasing him. Although identified as a journalist, he was hit several times and given electric shocks that made him drop his camera.
Oscar Martínez and Rubén Espinoza of the ABC news agency were forced to surrender their equipment and to delete their photos of the police operation.
The four photographers have filed complaints with the FEADLE and the Veracruz office of the Mechanism for the Protection for Journalists. The local authorities have meanwhile insisted that the eviction of teachers from the square took place without any incident or violation of human rights.
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