Aggressions Against Journalists Increase, Oaxaca Ranks Second in the Nation
One from Noticias Staff is Retained on the Highway by the Military
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
July 22, 2009
Ernesto Reyes Martinez, an editor for Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca and radio correspondent for the program “Hoy por Hoy” on radio XEW, was grabbed by members of the 9th Infantry Battalion, subjected to violent handling and held for an hour and a half. This occurred at 9:30 AM on Monday July 20. Reyes was not involved in any criminal act. He was riding in his car with his wife, trying to take photos with his cell phone of men of the State Investigative Agency (AIE). The newspaper Noticias says (July 25) he was taking photos of “an unusual event” when he was stopped. The unusual event seems to have been an extortion attempt (police do this to get bribe money) operating on the highway. The first press release (July 21) indicated that extortion was involved; the second article, put out by the National Commission for Human Rights and the National Center for Social Communication, (CENCO in its Spanish initials) focused only on Reyes.
I am assuming that since Reyes is affiliated with Noticias, the account they printed is his.
Combining accounts, Reyes observed five individuals chasing a man on a bicycle. The chase vehicles made the bicyclist stop. Reyes got out of his car and took photos with his cell phone camera. His car was thirty meters from a military post, a check-point on highway 190 which inspects vehicles for drugs and guns. However, at that moment the barrier was not operating because the soldiers were inside eating breakfast.
After he was stopped, 14-18 armed soldiers appeared and arrested the police participants in the chase. Reyes and Reyes’ wife were as also detained. Everyone was held in the military encampment, where Reyes’ cell phone was confiscated. Reyes identified himself and told the military he is a reporter. In addition to his personal cell phone they also took his work phone which belongs to Noticias. The illegal detention lasted an hour and a half while he remained incommunicado, although his wife was released after half an hour without her cell phone. According to the first report, Reyes’ personal identification was also retained.
Weapons of the AIE police were also confiscated. The police were released, along with another presumed accomplice in extortion who had been taken earlier, after the State Attorney General’s office came to get them.
After Reyes and his wife were released, the reporter lodged a formal complaint with CENCO, which responds to aggression against reporters.
In 2009, up until June 30, the 147 acts of aggression against free communication registered with CENCO (i.e., national numbers) included five murders, six demands to stop (reporting or broadcasting), 32 intimidations and threats, 10 attempts to harm, 46 physical assaults, and 14 kidnappings. These figures indicate a rise in crimes against the news media and reporters.
In 2008, 223 cases of obstruction of speech and communication occurred through direct and indirect aggressions. Thirty-six radio stations were smashed. 85.1% of the attacks were against journalists; 14.7% were against media. The states which had the highest incidence of crimes against reporters and news media were the Federal District (Mexico City DF) with 15.3% , followed by Oaxaca with 11.7% (this data is from Informe Buendia 2008). In third place was Veracruz with 9.9%, then Chiapas with 7.2%, then Tamaulipas and Hidalgo with 4% each. The northern states’ media also get threatened not only by government agents but also by narcotraffickers.
In addition to Ernesto Reyes, Manuel León López of the News Agency “Reflexión Informativa Oaxaca” was recently attacked, on April 2, 2009. In fine rhetoric, state director of the Convergencia political party, Mario Arturo Mendoza Flores, demanded an immediate halt to actions “orchestrated by the government of Ulises Ruiz against reporters dedicated to freedom of expression and against the media they represent.” Taking advantage of an opportunity to attack the rival political party of the PRI, Mendoza Flores said , “This constitutes a clear demonstration that the only form of governing that Ruiz Ortiz has left to him is the billy-club and deployment of many police wherever he is or will pass; therefore the ordinary Oaxaqueño who has a tranquil conscience endures fear and difficulty in moving about.… If recognized journalists suffer this type of aggression, you can imagine what happens to ordinary citizens.”
My personal comment on this latest attack, is that some military personnel may not know how to read (or understand the significance of) Reyes’ identification; soldiers are often recruited from the very lowest level of national education, and they are not well trained either as soldiers or as readers. Possibly the military didn’t distinguish Reyes from any other person. They beat up on everyone; that’s normal.
And where have the extortionists gone?
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