Call for the Release of Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum from Death Threats

PEN Center USA joins Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) call for US authorities to release Mexican journalist Martin Méndez Pineda, who is facing death threats in the state of Guerrero, and has been awaiting a response from US authorities since February, 5th 2017, for political asylum.

Martin Méndez Pineda, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Novedades Acapulco (Guerrero), has been detained for 60 days in a detention center in El Paso, Texas, by ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the outrageous and incomprehensible behavior of ICE and calls on the US authorities to immediately release Martín Méndez, who has not broken any law and has no judicial record.

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Background:
On February 22, 2016, reporting for Violento Acapulco on violent arrests by federal police officers during a traffic accident, Martin Méndez Pineda was insulted and assaulted by the same federal agents. A few weeks later, he was threatened with death by armed individuals outside his home. Fearing for his safety, the journalist decided to resign from his position at Novedades Acapulco and filed a complaint with the Mexican National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH). When the intimidation continued, including regular death threats via anonymous calls to his home, he decided, in early 2017, to flee to the United States.

In order to escape repeated death threats received in the State of Guerrero, Martin Méndez Pineda crossed the border on February 5, 2017, to seek political asylum in the United States. On March 1, 2017, he successfully passed the credible fear interview, a test conducted by US authorities to ensure that the threat to him in Mexico was real. The validation of this test gives, according to ICE, authorization to apply for parole and to officially enter US territory. Despite this, the reporter has still not received a favorable response to his request and remains locked in the detention center, in "deplorable conditions" according to his lawyer Carlos Spector.

The working environment for journalists in the State of Guerrero is extremely dangerous. From 2003 to 2017, RSF has recorded twelve murders and one disappearance of journalists in the area.

Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere
Mexico ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's Worldwide Press Freedom Index in 2016.

A report entitled Discretion to Deny by the Borderland Immigration Council (BIC) released in February 2017 details the abuses of US agents at the borders, who, the report claims, act “in a discretionary and opaque manner” and put in place techniques of intimidation and harassment to discourage and destabilize asylum seekers who seek refuge in the United States.