National Press Club

National Press Club, Journalism Institute call for release of Mexican journalist

April 11, 2017 | By Kathy Kiely | kkiely@press.org

The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to release Martín Méndez Pineda, a Mexican journalist who has been imprisoned for the last two months after seeking asylum in the United States.

“The jailing of this brave reporter amounts to punishing someone for having followed all of our immigration rules,” said Club President Jeff Ballou.

Méndez recently turned 26 in an El Paso, Texas, detention facility. For the previous three years, he had been a reporter covering official corruption for Novedades Acapulco, an Acapulco daily.

In the past year, Méndez says he has been roughed up by police, threatened over the phone and, in one case, held at gunpoint by a group of men in front of his home.

Fearing for his life, he decided to seek asylum in the United States, where he has cousin who is a citizen.

By all accounts, Méndez followed all of the proper procedures in making his application: Accompanied by Carlos Spector, an El Paso attorney specializing in Mexican asylum cases, Méndez presented himself at the U.S. port of entry in El Paso to seek asylum. His application was supported by the well-respected international organization, Reporters Without Borders. Detained pending resolution of his case, Méndez had a March 1 interview to determine if he has a “credible fear” of returning to his home country. It took the interviewing officer less than a day to answer that question in the affirmative.

Nonetheless, ICE denied Méndez’s application for release from detention pending resolution of his asylum claim. According to a March 28 letter provided to the National Press Club Journalism Institute by his attorney, ICE rejected the request for parole because “you have not established to ICE’s satisfaction that you are not a flight risk.” Even “imposition of a bond or other conditions of parole would not ensure to ICE’s satisfaction your appearance at required immigration hearings pending outcome of your case,” the letter to Méndez continued.

“Calling a journalist who has risked his life to expose corruption and who went to the trouble of retaining a U.S. immigration attorney to represent him untrustworthy and a ‘flight risk,’ seems so nonsensical that one has to wonder if there’s an ulterior motive at work here,” said National Press Club Journalism Institute Press Freedom Fellow Kathy Kiely. “Is the U.S. government afraid of insulting Mexico by acknowledging the clear and present danger to reporters who call out the rampant corruption there?”

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders and The Committee to Protect Journalists.

Last month, the Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was brutally murdered in front of one of her own children. Two weeks ago, an editor of Norte, a newspaper in the border city of Juarez, announced he was shutting down the publication because “there are neither the guarantees nor the security to exercise critical, counterbalanced journalism.”