Journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to cover the protests about the 43 missing trainee teachers in the southwestern state of Guerrero, which have turned violent since the authorities announced on 7 November that gangsters probably murdered them.
At least seven journalists were attacked by police during clashes in the state capital of Chilpancingo on 11 November, when police drove back demonstrators who had just set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Carlos Navarrete Romero of the El Sur Acapulco newspaper told Reporters Without Borders that police threw stones at him and hit him although he had clearly identified himself as a journalist.
Two other newspaper photographers, Sebastián Luna of Vértice and Anwar Delgado Peralta of El Universal, suffered the same fate when they tried to protect Navarrete.
Agence France-Presse photographer Jesús Eduardo Guerrero Ramírez and three other reporters – Jose Antonio Belmont and Alejandro Cardona of Milenio and Rosario Garcia of El Financiero – were also among those injured.
All of them said it was getting harder and harder to cover the protests. Journalists working for Mexican and international media demonstrated outside the headquarters of the state government in Chilpancingo on 12 November to demand an end to the attacks on media personnel.
Violence against journalists while they are working is all the more disturbing because, according to the National Commission for Human Rights, 89 percent of the attacks on media personnel go unpunished.
“We urge the federal and Guerrero state authorities to firmly condemn these attacks on journalists,” said Claire San Filippo, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “Police and protesters must respect the right of journalists to cover demonstrations. A UN resolution in March stressed the need for the authorities to take great care to protect reporters during protests.”
The disappearance of 43 students from a teachers training college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, has been the subject of constant protests throughout Mexico since 26 September.
The reported confessions of alleged gang members reinforced the suspicion that they were murdered by members of a drug-trafficking gang with the collusion of local officials and police, and has intensified against the widespread anger about violence, political complicity with organized crime and the generalized impunity.
Mexico is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.