A report issued last month by Reporters Without Borders (PWB) concluded that Mexico was one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press. The “extreme violence” related to illegal drug trafficking has had a “major impact on reporting” in Mexico according to PWB. Indeed, 2010 was a very difficult year for the Mexican press with at least seven journalists slain and one study concluded that regional newspapers altered their coverage in order to avoid retribution.
Some members of the media have been unable to put up with the pressures of constant violence and death threats against them and have sought refuge elsewhere. Such is the case with former Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto whose asylum hearing at a U.S. federal court was scheduled for today. He sought asylum since he crossed the border in 2008, a situation that led him to be detained for seven months at a federal immigration center. Gutierrez claimed that he fled with his 15-year-old son after receiving multiple death threats over his reporting on corruption in the Mexican military.
Gutierrez will supposedly have several witnesses in his favor during his asylum hearing including members of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Center for Public Integrity. They will try to strengthen his claims that he faces a credible threat and his life would be in danger if forced to return to Mexico.
As reported in the Texas Tribune, Gutierrez’ case represents “the most difficult route taken by asylum seekers, the defensive process, defined by the government as a request “as a defense against removal from the U.S.” Nonetheless, he hopes to have the same fate as Jorge Luis Aguirre, the former editor of a Ciudad Juarez daily who received asylum last September.
Should Gutierrez receive asylum or be deported to Mexico? Is U.S. immigration policy unfairly stacked against asylum seekers? If Gutierrez wins his case could this lead to an increase in asylum seekers amongst members of the press? These are questions worth pondering while we feature the following video from National Geographic on Gutierrez and his ordeal:
Video Source - YouTube
Online Sources- Reporters Without Borders via BBC News, The Texas Tribune, MSNBC, KTSM, The Latin Americanist, Reuters