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Angry mob attacks U.S. journalists

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Angry mob attacks U.S. journalists

  • A uniformed police officer confiscated their film and did nothing to help the reporter and photographer the attackers.

May 14, 2003 — Two journalists working for the San Antonio Express-News in Mexico City were attacked by an angry mob May 7 while a uniformed police officer watched, but did not stop the assault.

While they were working on a story about prostitution, reporter Dane Schiller and freelance photographer Tom Gandy were riding in a taxi through a neighborhood known for prostitution. Gandy was taking photographs from inside the taxi through an open window.

“A city police officer in a brown uniform came to the passenger window and demanded we hand over the film. Then, a woman who was obviously a prostitute leaned in the car and began swinging what looked like an awl, a tool for punching leather,” Schiller said, according to a May 11 Express-News report.

The tool hit Gandy in the face, making a gash below his right eye.

“I was physically assaulted, and there was no attempt to assist me in any way,” Gandy said, according to the Express-News.

The two gave the police officer three disks from the digital camera.

“I was able to get most of the quotes I needed, at least for that story,” Schiller said. “But we did not get the photos we needed. The discs that were taken included one with a dozen or more very telling images. We published one image, which Tom happened to have taken with another camera. We didn’t find the disc until after the chaos was over. There is a lot going on in the public view there — the very public view.”

After the crowd began to disperse, the driver gunned the taxi and sped away.

“We called the police, but were told there was nothing that could be done without the officer’s name, badge no., etc.,” Schiller said by e-mail. The incident “was another reminder that this is an intense place where anything can happen on any given day. Even the simplest stories can take twists that would never be possible working in the United States. You can never let your guard down. I’m very familiar with Mexico and have had to evade mobs before. I never saw this coming.”

According to Brett Thacker, an assistant managing editor for the Express-News, the newspaper is in the process of figuring out how to respond to the incident.

“Mexican justice is not quite as easy to obtain as it is in America,” he said.

JL


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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