National Press Club

Detained journalist Gutierrez nets fellowship invite on World Press Freedom Day

May 6, 2018 | By Justin Duckham |

Emilio Gutierrez, a Mexican reporter detained in the U.S. after his request for asylum was denied late last year, was offered the University of Michigan’s Knight-Wallace Journalism fellowship Thursday, an honor that coincided with World Press Freedom Day.

The announcement was made during a panel discussion at the National Press Club calling for the release of Gutierrez and three other journalists who have been similarly detained or imprisoned.

Lynette Clemetson, executive director of the fellowship program, cast the decision as “one step toward a solution that were are all seeking.”

“We signed on to two amicus briefs in the case and as I was looking through the legal briefs it occurred to me that a signature is one thing, but we actually have the power to do to something more and make our efforts very concrete,” Clemetson said.

Gutierrez entered the U.S. legally in 2008 to seek asylum after receiving death threats over his work documenting civilian abuse from members of the Mexican army.

After his request was denied last December, Gutierrez, along with his son Oscar, has been held at an immigration center in El Paso County, Texas, as the appeal process unfolds.

The journalist’s perilous legal situation has drawn robust support from a collection of journalism organizations, including the National Press Club and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s non-profit arm.

If Gutierrez is released, he will join 18 other journalists for the duration of the Michigan-based fellowship program.

In addition to Gutierrez, Thursday’s panel also focused on Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist better known by the name Shawkan, who has been detained since 2013 after being arrested while covering a protest in Cairo as well as Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters reporters imprisoned in Myanmar while reporting on the Rohingya crisis.

All four are recipients of the Club’s John Aubuchon Award, which is given to reporters who best demonstrate the values of a free and open press.

Those on the panel took the opportunity to share their own views on what can be done to ensure press freedom across the globe.

Club President Andrea Edney urged those in the press to do what they do best: shed light on the issue.

“Keep reminding people,” Edney said. “Keep reminding our readers and our viewers and our listeners how important these freedoms are and why they’re important.”

Kathy Kiely, a Press Freedom Fellow with the NPC Journalism Institute, expressed the need for the media to stay vigilant to prevent a further erosion of rights at home or abroad.

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance and the people who keep the vigil are journalists,” Kiely said. “If we allow things to fester in Egypt, if we allow things to fester in Mexico, if we allow things to fester in Myanmar, Syria, it’s all going to come home eventually.”

Journalist Yegi Rezaian, the wife of Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter jailed in Iran for 18 months, noted that the efforts of journalism organizations go beyond just legal support.

They also provide hope.

“If we are loud and consistent in delivering our message, the news about our efforts will finally get to our imprisoned colleagues,” Rezaian said. “It’s not easy, but when it gets to them, believe me, that’s the only thing that will help keep them going. That’s exactly what happened to me and my husband. That’s the opposite of what their captors would have you believe.”