Reporters Without Borders is today publishing the interview it obtained with Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto of the newspaper El Diario del Noroeste after his release on 29 January from the detention centre in the Texan border city of El Paso where he was held for seven months. Gutiérrez fled across the border with his teenage son seeking asylum on 15 June 2008.
In the interview, Gutiérrez describes his hasty departure after being threatened by military personnel in the northern state of Chihuahua where he lived and worked. He also recounts the circumstances of his arrest by the US immigration authorities and the conditions in which he was held in El Paso.
“I would have been a murder statistic if I hadn’t fled to the United States,” Gutiérrez said. A fellow journalist working for the same newspaper, Armando Rodríguez Carreón, was murdered in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez on 13 November 2008, during a period of extreme violence.
“Gutiérrez’s story is unfortunately typical of the terrible situation that Mexican journalists are experiencing on either side of the US border, in a region where the leading drug-trafficking strongholds are located,” Reporters Without Borders said. “US journalists are also being affected by this situation, albeit to a lesser degree.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Gutiérrez’s account does not explain how a defenceless journalist fearing for his life came to be detained, and for so long, while his status was being resolved. Gutiérrez stresses that the threat to the Mexican press in the region comes not only from organised crime but also the authorities themselves. We are publishing his account in support of our call for a concerted effort by the US and Mexican federal authorities to make the border region safe.
“We also hope that political asylum will be more readily granted to journalists exposed to a danger of this scale. This applies not only to the United States but also to other countries such as Canada which are likely to receive Mexican journalists forced to seek asylum. We like to think that Gutiérrez will be granted residency quickly.”