Armed group seizes and beats Mexican reporters

MEXICO CITY - An armed group briefly seized about 60 Mexican reporters and their families and beat some of them for supposedly showing disrespect towards 43 missing students, a local journalist organisation said Tuesday.

The journalists were gathered for an annual awards ceremony Saturday in the town of Tlapa de Comonfort in the restive state of Guerrero - where the students vanished in September - when the attackers went for them shouting "Sold-out press!"

"There were dozens, nearly a hundred persons, some of them wearing hoods and armed, and others with sticks and police clubs," Miguel Angel Mata, president of the Guerrero Journalists' Club, told AFP.

The state has been simmering with protests since the disappearance and presumed massacre of the 43 male students, allegedly at the hands of a drug gang in league with police in the Guerrero town of Iguala.

Mata said the armed assailants identified themselves as members of the Popular Movement of Guerrero, which includes a radical state teacher's union as well as students of the teachers college that the missing students attended.

Local press reports said several men armed with rifles and wearing the uniforms of community guards locked the journalists in the town hall.

"They said they were a jury and were going to try us because we had come to offend them," Mata said.

He said they accused the journalists of breaking mourning over the deaths of the missing students by using the awards event to promote politicians.

"They began to beat me, my wife and some companions," Mata said.

They stopped only after the newspaper Milenio reported on its website that journalists had been kidnapped.

The group then made Mata deny the report in a video that circulated on the Internet in which he is seen with a man armed with a rifle standing behind him.

He said they were finally released around midnight Saturday.

"We talked to the state human rights commission, the national commission, the government, and no one came to help us," Mata said.

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