National Press Club

National Press Club Announces that University of Michigan Awards Journalism Fellowship to Jailed Reporter

May 4, 2018 | By Kathy Kiely | kkiely@press.org

Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto, a Mexican journalist whom U.S. immigration officials are attempting to deport despite death threats against him in his home country, has been awarded a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Lynette Clemetson, executive director of the prestigious journalism program, announced the honor Thursday at the National Press Club, where she participated on a panel to mark World Press Freedom Day. Gutiérrez is a 2017 winner of the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom award.

If U.S. authorities allow him to accept the Knight-Wallace offer, Gutiérrez will join a distinguished class of 18 fellows that includes journalists from the New York Times, the BBC, NPR, among other news organizations.

The award marks the latest show of support from his professional peers for Gutiérrez, jailed with his son, Oscar, in an El Paso immigration center since Dec. 7. The National Press Club, the Knight-Wallace Fellowships and numerous other journalism organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging that the two men be released and granted asylum in the United States.

“Threatening Emilio with what could amount to a death sentence sends a chilling message to journalists worldwide,” said National Press Club President Andrea Edney. “The United States needs to reclaim its role as a haven for truth-tellers and a beacon for free speech.”

Gutiérrez came to the United States as a legal asylum seeker in 2008 after one of his confidential sources in Mexico warned him that he was on a death list. A single father, he brought his then-15-year-old son with him. After U.S. officials determined that the pair had “credible fear” of returning to their home country, they were allowed to live and work in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Last year, however, an immigration judge in El Paso denied the Gutiérrezes’ asylum request. Judge Robert Hough contended the two could get protection from the Mexican government (which the United Nations has accused to failing to protect journalists) and questioned Emilio Gutiérrez’s credentials as a journalist.

“The Knight Wallace Fellowship is a high honor for any journalist and should dispel any doubt about Emilio’s professional standing on the part of Judge Hough or other immigration officials,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “We hope that this will win Emilio’s release and let him get back to the good work he was doing. That will make both sides of the border a better place.”

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club represents more than 3,100 journalists and communicators. Through its nonprofit Journalism Institute, it provides professional training and works to defend freedom of the press and freedom of speech worldwide.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowship provides an eight-month program of immersive study for accomplished mid-career journalists on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.