January 10, 2018

US/Mexico: RSF renews calls for the release of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto and his son

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is renewing its call for detained Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto and his 24-year-old son, Oscar, who are currently being detained by immigration services in a facility near el Paso, Texas.

For nearly ten years, Emilio Gutierrez has been seeking asylum in the United States after receiving death threats in connection with his reporting for El Diario del Noroeste newspaper in Ascension, the northern state of Chihuahua in Mexico. Since Gutierrez and his 24-year-old son Oscar first requested asylum in the US, their case has been subject to multiple delays. The request was finally denied in July 2017. On December 7, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained and handcuffed Emilio Gutierrez and attempted to take him and Oscar to the Mexican border. Only an urgent stay of removal granted by the US Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which handles asylum cases, prevented his deportation. Since then, the BIA has agreed to reopen Gutierrez’ case and hear his appeal for asylum. Gutierrez and his son believe that if they are deported back to Mexico, they will almost certainly be killed. They wait behind bars pending the BIA’s decision.

We are calling on those in power to free Gutierrez and his son Oscar from detention and grant them asylum in the US,” said RSF North America Director Margaux Ewen. “They legally came to this country seeking asylum from very real threats to their safety. Their deportation back to Mexico would amount to a death sentence. The country of the First Amendment should be protecting journalists who have risked their lives covering corruption in its southern neighbor, not detaining or expelling them.

After exposing corruption and abuses by the Mexican military between 2005 and 2008, Gutierrez’ home was raided by dozens of armed men who he believed to be members of the military. The reporter then learned that his name had been placed on a military kill list. Shortly afterwards, Gutierrez and his son fled Mexico for the US in fear for their lives. The two sought political asylum after entering the US and were detained and taken into custody as their asylum process began. After being detained for seven months, father and son were given temporary work permits and settled down in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they ran a food truck. They regularly checked in with ICE when required.

Eleven journalists were killed in Mexico last year in connection to their work. Mexico, the second deadliest country for media in the world after Syria, ranks 147 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The US ranks 43rd.