Seven journalists assaulted and robbed in Guerrero in southern Mexico

Seven national and international journalists were assaulted and robbed of their belongings and work equipment allegedly by a local criminal gang in Guerrero, Mexico on May 13, several media outlets reported.

The journalists, who were traveling aboard two trucks, were intercepted by a group of at least 100 armed men upon arriving at an informal checkpoint on the Iguala-Ciudad Altamirano highway, in the municipality of Acapetlahuaya in Guerrero. There they stole personal documents, money, cell phones, passports, laptops, photo and video cameras, and one of the trucks, newspaper La Jornada reported.

"They told us they were going to burn us alive," said Sergio Ocampo, one of the journalists assaulted, according to Animal Político.

The journalists attacked were Ocampo, host for Radio UAgro and correspondent for La Jornada in Guerrero and news agency AFP; Jair Cabrera, graphic reporter and collaborator of La Jornada; Hans Musielik, a German journalist collaborating with Vice News Mexico; Pablo Pérez García, Spanish journalist with Hispano Post; Jorge Martínez, of the news agency Quadratín Guerrero; Ángel Galeana, of Imagen TV; and César Alejandro Lorenzo Ortiz, from site Bajo Palabra and W Radio, according to Animal Político.

The Attorney General's Office of the Republic (PGR for its acronym in Spanish) condemned the attack and reported that, through the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (Feadle), it has initiated an investigation with state authorities, Proceso reported.

The National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH) also condemned the incident and said in a statement that "armed groups [cannot be permitted] to assault and violate the working material of journalists in the State of Guerrero or in any other region of the country."

Both the PGR and the CNDH reported that they have contacted the affected communicators to take the necessary actions for the case and to offer them assistance, according to Proceso and the CNDH.

The media workers were returning from San Miguel Totolapan after covering the May 12 confrontation between state and federal security forces and the residents of that city, Univision reported. According to Animal Político, the locals of that municipality recently formed a self-defense group to confront kidnappings and extortion by criminal gangs La Familia Michoacana and Los Tequileros.

The governor of Guerrero, Héctor Astudillo, said on social networks: "I am convinced that the people who attacked them are people from La Familia Michoacana who got involved. (...) What happened to fellow journalists in (the region) Tierra Caliente is an inadmissible act that we do not tolerate and condemn strongly," according to what Univisión published on its site.

In protest of the aggression, dozens of journalists marched to the main square of Chilpancingo de los Bravo, capital of the state of Guerrero, on May 14. Demonstrators demanded from Governor Astudillo and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto the necessary guarantees to exercise their profession, reported the site Regeneración.

"We emphasize that these criminal groups move with total impunity and we find it strange that they have acted with total anarchy in the middle of two Mexican Army checkpoints, which confirms the coexistence between law enforcement and criminal groups," said journalist Jesús Saavedra during the protest, reading a statement on behalf of his fellow demonstrators, published Regeneración.

Four journalists have been murdered in Mexico so far in 2017. According to Article 19 Mexico, about 104 journalists were reportedly killed in the country since 2000, possibly for reasons related to their journalistic work, Animal Político reported.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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