San Diego Reporter Detained in Mexico

By Kevin Eck 

KNSD reporter Liberty Zabala along with a freelance journalist were detained in Tijuana for allegedly taking images in a restricted federal area at a border crossing between the U.S. and Mexico.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports “A Mexican federal government source with knowledge of the incident said Tuesday that two individuals had been spotted at 9:45 a.m. Monday on a government video surveillance camera at the port’s ‘nothing to declare lanes,’ and observed ‘using communications equipment, as well as video cameras’ without permission in a restricted federal area.”

San Diego freelance journalist Gonzalo Ruiz told the Union-Tribune, “I’m very embarrassed” about having involved Zabala “in what I did. She was not on assignment.”

Ruiz says Zabala went to the border with him to shoot video for a demonstration. The video was intended for a local low-power station. Here’s the story from the Union-Tribune:

Ruiz said he had heard about protests in recent days at the Mexican port and “wanted to get a glimpse of what was going on…I figured I’d take video for my b-roll.” At the time the pair was stopped, there were no protesters at the port.

The Mexican customs agency found that the two were violating Mexico’s Customs Law, which forbids the use of “communication equipment and/or video cameras without corresponding authorization” in the restricted area, the source said.

Ruiz and and Zabala were asked for their U.S. passports. “The offender with an altered tone argued that he was in a public right of way, and had the right to use any communications equipment and/or video camera,” according to the Mexican federal source.

After a three-hour wait, Ruiz said authorities returned the passports and allowed them to leave. Ruiz was fined 11,000 pesos, about $500, while Zabala was not penalized, he said.