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Apr 28, 2009

Authorities stop News Five crew from entering Mexico

Story PictureA News Five team could not enter into Mexico today to report on the status of the swine flu. But Marcelino Miranda of the Mexican Embassy in Belize gave us an update of what the situation was like Quintana Roo where there are growing numbers of suspected cases of the flu.

Marion Ali Reporting
Traffic at the entrance to the Commercial Free Zone was slow earlier today as Belizean authorities continued to screen visitors. Nearby, Immigration personnel were also still carefully screening travelers who entered the country. A doctor and nurse were on stand by to deal with any suspected cases of Swine Flu and on Monday, an immigration officer told News Five that a woman was turned back after she displayed symptoms.

At a police check point on the Belizean side of the International Bridge police officers, dressed in masks and gloves, were not checking for license and insurance as is the norm, but were monitoring visitors.

On the Mexican side, health officials were handing out flyers on proper hygiene. But that was the furthest point that we reached because for the first time to our knowledge, Mexican immigration authorities prevented a Belizean news team trying to enter into Chetumal to cover a news story.

While we had our passports and a letter declaring our equipment and explaining our purpose for the visit, the female officer at the Mexican Immigration Office told us that we did not have an official document which allows journalists to cover official events. This left us wondering whether there was something to hide on the other side of the border.

Once back in Belize City, Press Officer at the Mexican Embassy, Marcelino Miranda said the officer’s decision to turn us back was poor judgment, that we did not need any other documents than the ones we showed, and that there was certainly nothing they were hiding on their side of the border.

Macelino Miranda, Mexican Press Officer
“All reporters can go in and also we received a directive to provide all the information to Mexican nationals and all foreign nationals to provide all information if they want to go to Mexico and if they have any concerns about the health in Mexico, we are entitled and obligated to provide that information.”

Marion Ali
“Why wasn’t I afforded this?”

Macelino Miranda
“As far as my understanding, it was a misunderstanding by the immigration officials about the rules.”

Marion Ali
“What was the misunderstanding? I had a later from my job, I had my passport which was the required documents that you have told me previously that I would have needed. When I got there they said no, I needed some other document.”

Macelino Miranda
“Marion I regret what happened and behalf of the Embassy of Mexico, I really regret what happened. There’s no restriction on any reporter. What I think is that these immigration officers made a mistake about the proper documents. All reporters are entitled to go to Mexico and in this case it was a misunderstanding by a immigration officer.”

Marion Ali
“This looks as if though you all are hiding something because I was merely trying to cross to do my job—to report the facts and the report the events what’s happening in Quintana Roo and Chetumal. So I don’t understand why you’re saying there are no restrictions when I was restricted today”

Macelino Miranda
“Yes, I regret that but definitely on behalf of the Government of Mexico and the Embassy of Mexico, I confirmed that all the information is opened, all the information is going to be provided to reporters and also to the general public.”

Marion Ali
“You were in communication with them and they never allowed me through even after you spoke with them, so obviously they were getting directive from somebody else.”

Macelino Miranda
“Yes, now definitely I’m sure that they didn’t receive and there’s no directive by the federal government to restrict the entrance of any person. And I’m really sure that if you tried to go tomorrow everything is going to be sorted out and the Embassy of Mexico is going to provide you there with a special permission.”

Marion Ali
“So if I go back with the same letter I took today and my passport, I would be allowed into Mexico?”

Macelino Miranda
“We are in direct communication with immigration officers—yes, you are going to be allowed.”

We’ll see whether our coverage of swine flu takes us back to the Mexican crossing tomorrow or elsewhere.
Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

On Sunday in Mexico churches and football stadiums remained closed and schools were also closed on Monday.

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