Reporters Without Borders is calling on U.S. authorities to admit Mexican journalist Martin Mendez Pineda into the United States, detained at the border for the past 60 days while fleeing threats of violence in his home country to seek asylum north of the border.
In a statement released Wednesday, the group explained that Mendez Pineda, the target of attacks and death threats in his home state of Guerrero, has been waiting for a response to his political asylum request since Feb. 5.
While he passed the “credible fear interview” on March 1, which authorities use to decide whether a real threat exists, and would ordinarily have been allowed to enter the United States, he instead has been detained under “deplorable conditions,” according to his lawyer.
“We call on ICE to release Martin Mendez Pineda without delay,” Emmanuel Colombie, the head of the Latin America bureau of Reporters Without Borders, also known as RSF, said in the statement. “This journalist, who has been persecuted and threatened with death in his country, must be allowed to present his case for political asylum freely and with dignity before an immigration judge.”
After covering a number of violent arrests made by federal police officers in February, Mendez Pineda, a former journalist with Novedades Acapulco, was attacked by these same police officers. Weeks later, armed men threatened to kill him outside his home. He then decided to resign from Novedades Acapulco, file a complaint with Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and flee to the United States.
According to the RSF, journalism is a dangerous job in Guerrero, with 11 journalists having been murdered in Guerrero since 2003. The most recent victim was Cecilio Pineda Birto, a crime reporter who was gunned down in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero last month.
The rest of Mexico is just as deadly for reporters — the country is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in the Western hemisphere.
Recently, the newspaper Norte was forced to shut down in the city of Juarez. Its editor penned an editorial informing readers of the publication's decision to shut down, citing the story of Miroslava Breach, a journalist from a city nearby who was shot in the head eight times while she was in her car with her child. The slain La Jornada reporter, who often collaborated with Norte, was left with a note by the gunman that read, “For being a loudmouth.”
And just last month, a spate of other murders took place, with two journalists killed in Veracruz, in addition to the ones in Guerrero and Chihuahua. An armed attack on a journalist in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, also left his bodyguard dead.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that at least 38 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992 for motives linked to their reporting, with another 50 slain in the same time period for unclear reasons.
A recent report by the Inter-American Press Association found that 13 journalists have been killed in Latin America just in the last 6 months, with Mexico leading in the number of these deaths. Since last October, Mexico has seen 5 journalists murdered; Peru has seen three; Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, two; and Honduras, one.
Meanwhile, a new report by press freedom group Article 19, found that people who kill journalists in Mexico get away with murder 99.7 percent of the time. It points out that 2016 was "the most violent year for the press in Mexico" with a record of 426 attacks and 11 journalists murdered, the largest number in the last 10 years.