Mexico: Obrador’s attacks on freedom reach new heights

In a world where there are too many tyrants and our politics seems increasingly divisive it is all too easy to look away, to turn off the news, to refuse to engage.

Yet there is a responsibility on all of us to bear witness. To hear people’s stories and to stand with those dissidents who are brave enough to speak truth to power.

In recent weeks, we have been reminded of how important this is, in countries that don’t always dominate the headlines.

In the ongoing battle for genuine freedom of expression in Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s relentless attacks on journalists and democratic institutions have reached alarming heights, posing a severe threat to press freedom and democracy in the country.

The latest incident involved an investigation by a New York Times journalist into the Obrador administration’s alleged connections with drug cartels. The report led to Obrador sharing the journalist’s telephone number during a televised press conference  – this is a blatant attack on freedom of the press. By exposing a journalist to potential harm, Obrador is sending a chilling message to the media: report critically at your own risk.

These actions would be bad enough – but are compounded by Obrador’s proposals to overhaul democratic institutions, such as the election authority INE and the Supreme Court. Obrador is seemingly seeking to consolidate power and the democratic checks and balances which exist in any healthy democracy.

His proposal to directly elect both board members of the INE and Supreme Court judges threatens to politicise these institutions and erode their independence. Civil society groups, academics, and the opposition have rightly warned that such changes would undermine the very foundation of democracy in Mexico.

The widespread protests that erupted last Sunday, with thousands of Mexicans taking to the streets to reject Obrador’s vision, are a testament to the growing dissatisfaction with his authoritarian tendencies and for me a celebration of freedom of expression against one of the world’s less well known tyrants.

Obrador was faced by a sea of pink — the colour of INE’s logo — and thousands of national flags demonstrating a united front against the erosion of the democratic principles which the people of Mexico seem rightly reluctant to abandon.

I stand with the people of Mexico who will not bend to a tyrant. Obrador seeks to be a strong man – his actions show us exactly what he is a weak man – afraid of his citizens.

At the beginning of last year Obrador was voted Tyrant of the Year 2022 in Index on Censorship’s public vote. This recognition was based on his appalling record on media freedom. His response to our public poll was to attack the messenger rather than consider the message – again at a televised press conference.

Behind each action taken by Obrador to consolidate power is a victim. It may be a journalist, an independent member of the judiciary or an observer of Mexico’s elections. Each one embodies the democratic rights that we hold dear. Each of them wants to live in a thriving Mexico that can stand proud in its belief in freedom of expression for all. I stand in solidarity with the journalists and citizens of Mexico who are bravely speaking out against censorship and authoritarianism. I stand with those people exposing his authoritarian nature. And I stand with those who bravely seek to speak truth to power.

Index will continue to shine a spotlight on Obrador’s assault on freedom of expression because the future of Mexico’s democracy demands our attention.

In Mexico, a journalist is attacked every 13 hours. The government is to blame

Mexico is torn between two opposing forces. On one side are the balaclava-clad sicarios and cartels of popular culture. On the other, a government that is becoming ever more obsessed with the appearance of power and glory. The army has been deployed to the streets across the country. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador talks frequently about subverting the constitution to allow his re-election.

For journalists, the imperative to report the truth has never been stronger. There are too many stories to tell – the realities of crime – the institutional corruption that has mired Mexico for some many years – the inefficiency of the flagship ‘Fourth Transformation’ that the current government has staked its reputation on.

Those involved in these stories, however, do not want them to be told. 2022 was one of the deadliest years on record for journalists in Mexico, with 12 murders, and was the most violent with 696 attacks recorded, according to a new report from Article 19. The overwhelming majority of these attacks will go unsolved. Many will never even be investigated.

Forty-two percent of the documented attacks are committed by state actors, the report says.

Nowhere are the problems facing journalists more apparent than in Ecatepec – a sprawling shanty town of squat, concrete dwellings, precariously perched on the mountainsides that surround the capital. Here, the contempt for the press is laid bare. Local journalists are targeted. Foreign journalists are threatened. Here, organised crime and governance go hand in hand.

Cody Copeland, a US journalist working in Mexico, attended a rally in the district, when he discovered that officials from the ruling Morena party in attendance were wearing medallions of Santa Muerte – the patron saint of cartels. The mayor himself was not a career politician, but, according to the newspaper Reforma, a former leader of a band of pirate taxis. Many fear criminal activities are now being carried out in an official capacity.

When questioned about why Ecatepec had seen no running water in five months, Copeland was violently removed from the press conference. Later, he said, a woman from the Morena party attempted to lure him away with promises of an exclusive interview – but residents intervened, suspecting he was likely to be attacked, and drove him away to safety, back in the city.

Copeland believes it is likely that his equipment would have been destroyed if he had been detained.

The greatest dangers are faced by those covering local affairs – where they are likely to be people known in their community. Reporters here are often targeted, and many are unable to leave their homes in fear of reprisals.

Carlos Flores is a local reporter, who lives in Ecatepec. Despite the fact reporting here has always been hard, he feels that under Morena things have only got worse.

“The current government we have is even harder than the previous ones. They are very tight-lipped. With previous governments, you still had some freedom [to report], but with the current one, I feel there are no guarantees for journalism – not in Ecatepec or anywhere else in the republic,” Flores said.

Flores has been attacked three times in recent years – twice, he said, by government forces.

When Flores is at the scene of a crime, police will often tell families not to speak to journalists – obscuring the extent to which the government has failed to handle crime in the area. If he persists, Flores explains, he is likely to be removed by police, and have his equipment destroyed.

President Obrador has frequently dismissed the idea of links between criminal gangs and government, as well as denying claims that large parts of Mexico being controlled by cartels and rubbishing reports that his government spies on activists, journalists and opponents. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Just last week, for example, it was confirmed that his government had monitored the phone of a human rights activist (Obrador said this was lawful, part of a probe into a suspected cartel member).

As for government support for the press, this is available but is largely funnelled into media conglomerates seen as friendly to Morena – La Jornada, Televisa and TV Azteca. These outlets are safe – allowing the appearance of supporting the press without risking serious adverse coverage or investigation.

To make matters worse, Obrador is currently embroiled in a battle to criminalise dissent against the government during election periods. While these reforms appear to have been defeated for now, his attempts to consolidate power are often directed at those who he believes to be naysayers – in particular journalists who are critical of his record.

It is not uncommon for Obrador to use his daily press conference to target individual journalists he believes have wronged him, and to decry outlets that have slighted him as pawns of the opposition, including Index on Censorship. This delegitimisation of the media is accepted by many of his supporters, who gleefully join him in deriding attempts to expose wrongdoing in an administration that appears – despite pleas to the contrary – as corrupt as those that came before.

The presidential elections next year will likely see a new Morena candidate elected to power.  The question for Mexico is – will they value freedom of the press?

Tyrant of the year 2022: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico

“He who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear”. These were the words uttered by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a February 2022 press conference held the day after Heber López Vásquez, founder and director of the digital news outlets NoticiasWeb and RCP Noticias, was shot and killed. However this was not a call for greater transparency and action to respond to the ever-climbing rate of journalist murders in Mexico. He was publishing what he alleged were the confidential financial details of leading journalist, Carlos Loret de Mola, in response to the journalist’s reporting.

“This act of intimidation and the abuse of the presidential office would be egregious in any circumstance. However In Mexico, against a backdrop of rampant impunity and one of the worst track records for the safety of journalists, it is far worse than that,” says Index’s policy and campaigns officer Nik Williams. “According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 151 journalists and press workers have been killed in Mexico since 1992. The causes of these murders are complex; but a messy tangle of narco-politics, organised crime, corrupt police and state officials and runaway impunity has made Mexico one of the most dangerous locations to be a journalist outside a warzone. In fact, so far in 2022, Mexico is second only to Ukraine for the number of journalists killed.

Since Obrador only came to power in 2018, it would be overly-simplistic to lay this solely at his feet. However, according to Article 19, attacks on the press have increased by 85% since he took power, with every single Mexican state witnessing such incidents for the first time in 2021.

When there is a culture of impunity and the devaluing of journalists, the scene is set for violence. It is this erosion of the civic fabric that makes Article 19’s director for Mexico and Central America: “His [Obrador’s] speech causes other political actors to replicate his attacks. These actors feel empowered and allowed to attack in the face of a narrative that presents the press as an adversary. We are in a war speech, where the enemy must be annihilated.”

After publicly leaking Carlos Loret de Mola’s alleged salary and potentially violating Article 16 of the Mexican Constitution in the process, Obrador labelled journalists who are critical of him as “thugs, mercenaries, sellouts” and “the real mafia.” This framing establishes a false and dangerous parallel between the free press and criminal enterprises, further emboldening threats that can soon escalate to violence.

Impunity, the like of which is found in Mexico, requires significant and proactive action to address. It is not something that will just right itself when no one is looking. It requires a commitment to the value of free expression. It requires action. According to Human Rights Watch, “[o]f the 105 investigations into killings of journalists conducted by the federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (Feadle), since its creation in 2010, just six have led to homicide convictions.” What good is a dedicated prosecutor if the rate of convictions is so low? Not only is this a failure to the family, friends and colleagues of the murdered journalists whose killings are being investigated by Feadle, this is a signal to those seeking to silence critical reporting: you can continue uninterrupted and undisturbed. This weakening of the mechanisms by which journalists can be protected is also seen in the 2020 decision of the Mexican Congress and supported by Obrador, to eliminate the independent funding that supported the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Now the mechanism is dependent on the Interior Ministry to pay for protection measures, but funds have been consistently cut. Leading media freedom organisations and 14 members of US Congress have raised concerns about this, seemingly to no avail.

Williams says: “What Obrador sees as a war against the elites, we see as a war against journalists, and ultimately free expression. Without Obrador stepping forward and addressing the ingrained climate of fear and impunity, instead of fixating on those who report on uncomfortable facts, Mexican journalists will remain stuck in the crosshairs of those seeking their silence.”

Project Exile: Threatened in Mexico, facing deportation in the USA

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This article is part of Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist’s Project Exile series, which has published interviews with exiled journalists from around the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”106335″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]On a sunny day in June 2008, in the small city of Ascensión in northern Mexico, journalist Emilio Gutiérrez received a phone call from a friend. She was very nervous and said she needed to meet him in person urgently. When the friend, a local teacher named Olga, arrived, her message was unequivocal.

“They are going to kill you,” she said. A family member she knew was in the Mexican military and had told her he had been assigned to be part of a special project to kill the journalist. He was telling Olga in order to warn Gutiérrez. A single father who had been threatened by the military previously and recently noticed that he was under surveillance, Gutiérrez took his 15-year-old son Oscar and left home. Within days, he was heading towards the US border in El Paso, Texas.

“I was never interested in coming to the United States because I liked my job, I like my country, I had my family there, I practically had everything,” Emilio says, in an interview with Global Journalist. “I never got a passport because I didn’t want to leave Mexico.”

El Paso means “the step” in Spanish. And for Emilio it was a step away from fear and persecution; and he hoped, a step towards freedom. He never imagined coming to the USA would mean family separation and a tedious decade-long legal battle that would leave both his and Oscar’s life in limbo – and facing repeated deportation orders. His life in exile highlights not only the dangers Mexican journalists face: according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 32 have been killed in Mexico since 2008, the year Emilio left. But it also demonstrates the challenges journalists seeking asylum in the USA confront in working through a slow-moving and sometimes capricious immigration system.

Boots and hat reporter

Emilio’s story began in Nuevo Casas Grande in the northern state of Chihuahua as a curious and ambitious 18-year-old. He started in journalism as a photographer for a local newspaper and then began reporting. Motivated by the idealism of many young journalists, Emilio hoped to improve society by changing people’s views of the world.

“In my country, we have had to live a lot of despair because of poverty and lack of education,” he says. “A feeling of nonconformity and rebellion was born in me at a young age knowing that I was able to change the mentality of people through the media.”

In 2000, Emilio moved to Ascensión, a city of 13,000 about two hours southwest of Ciudad Juarez and its sister city of El Paso, Texas. Much of his job was in the countryside, and Emilio became a boots-and-cowboy-hat reporter for the newspaper El Diario del Noroeste, covering issues from local politics to school events. But by 2005, life was changing in northern Mexico as conflict among drug cartels and between the Mexican state and criminal gangs sent crime and violence soaring – the start of what would be a dark era in Mexican history.

A power struggle between the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel and the Gulf cartel left as many as 1,000 dead in 2005 and made border cities like Nuevo Laredo the scene of nightly gun battles. President Vicente Fox responded by deploying the army to northern Mexico to try to control the violence. But reporters weren’t immune to the toll: in 2014 and 2015, six Mexican journalists were murdered after reporting on organised crime and government corruption.

In early 2005, the mayor of a small Mexican border town called Puerto Palomas contacted Emilio to complain that the Mexican army had seized control of a hotel in town named La Estrella, according to documents later filed in US immigration court. Emilio published an article 4 February of that year titled “Demands to Stop Impunity,” criticising the army’s takeover of La Estrella. Like many sensitive newspaper stories, the article ran without a byline – so as to offer some measure of protection to the reporter.

It didn’t work. About a week later, Emilio received a call from an army officer. One of his superiors wanted to meet him in person. “Either you come see us, or we will come to see you,” he was told.

Meeting the general

Emilio came to the meeting in downtown Ascensión accompanied by Oscar, then 12, thinking he would meet the officer in a hotel dining room. It was evening when he arrived, and Emilio left Oscar in the car. But the journalist never made it to the hotel. Instead, he was taken to a pickup truck where he later testified he was met by the Mexican Army general Alfonso Garcia Vega. 

Vega was upset. “So you are the son of a bitch that’s writing these stupidities?” Vega asked him, according to court records.

There wouldn’t be another article, Vega warned Gutiérrez. Mexico’s secretary of defence was very angry, the general warned. “Why don’t you write about drug traffickers?” Vega asked him. “You don’t write about them, but you write about us. We, who get rid of drug traffickers. I feel like getting you in my truck to take you to the mountains, so you can become aware of our work and how we get rid of the drug traffickers.”

Soldiers surrounded Emilio, nearly pinning him against the general’s truck, he later told a US immigration court. He was eventually released, but Emilio wondered if it was only because people from the town had passed by him and greeted him while he was speaking with the soldiers.

When Emilio made it back to Oscar and his vehicle, he drove away and then telephoned his editor to tell him what had happened. The next day El Diario struck back, publishing an article about the incident headlined “Members of the Military Threaten Reporter’s Life,” based on Emilio’s account.

He also sought to raise the issue with the government. Emilio filed a complaint about the incident with the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office and wrote to the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico City. The prosecutor’s office told him they would investigate the threat, but Emilio never heard from them again. The human rights commission conducted an investigation and concluded that no members of the Mexican military had been responsible for the incident. However, the commission did send a letter to the local command of the Mexican army, instructing them to avoid acts that intimidate or hinder freedom of expression.

Emilio Gutiérrez. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

Emilio Gutiérrez. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

Soldiers in the house

This outcome didn’t make Emilio feel safe. So over the next three years, Gutiérrez went back to reporting local news, politics and sports, taking care not to report on the Mexican military. It was a big subject to ignore: by 2006 the Mexican military was in an all-out war with drug cartels that killed hundreds of people each month. For a time, Chihuahua was the scene of the bloodiest fighting, with 6,757 deaths from cartel-related violence between 2006 and 2010, according to the Associated Press.

For Emilio, there were no further threats. That is, until one night in early May 2008. He and Oscar were at home when he heard a loud noise outside his home just after midnight. In court, Emilio later testified that he went to his living room and saw a group of about 50 soldiers. They kicked in his front door and pointed their guns at him as he stood in his living room in his underwear.

After Emilio told them he was a journalist, they forced him to the ground and told him they were searching the house for drugs and guns after receiving an anonymous report – though they had no search warrant. After the soldiers were through and prepared to leave, one soldier, who Emilio later identified as a lieutenant, told him to “behave” and gave him a telephone number to call in the event that he wanted to report any illegal activity.

When the men had left, Emilio called the police to report the incident – but no police ever came. The next day, Emilio told his editor of the events, and soon thereafter he helped the paper publish an article headlined “Soldiers Raid Journalist’s Home”.

That didn’t end things. A few weeks later, Emilio noticed men with military-style haircuts watching his home. Frightened, he and Oscar went to spend the night at a friend’s house. That night, he got the call from Olga warning him that the military was planning to kill him – and he and Oscar were soon driving towards the US border and safety.

Emilio and Oscar, then 15, arrived at the border without passports. Emilio told US border agents that he was a journalist who had received death threats and was seeking asylum. The two were separated. Oscar was sent to a detention centre for minors for seven months, while Emilio was held in a separate detention centre.

“My son is my life,” Gutierrez says. “To be separate and to not know what was coming destroyed a part of our lives.” 

During two and a half months in custody, father and son were able to speak on the phone briefly just three times. The two were released in Texas in early 2009 to await adjudication of their asylum applications by US immigration authorities.

In the meantime, the Gutiérrezes moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, about an hour’s drive from El Paso. After seven months of detention, Emilio’s financial situation was dire – so he sold his house in Mexico for a fraction of its value. After a time, he received a US work permit and took as many jobs as possible to survive while awaiting an asylum hearing. He did landscaping, washed dishes and eventually ran his own food truck.

Trial by immigration court

The case moved slowly through the system, and Emilio had to periodically report to US immigration authorities to show he hadn’t fled. He cycled through a number of immigration lawyers. Hearings were postponed, and months turned into years. Oscar, no longer a boy, left high school and began culinary school. In November 2016, seven years after the Gutiérrezes left Mexico, Emilio had a hearing on the merits of his asylum case before a US immigration court in El Paso. 

It didn’t go well. The government’s immigration counsel questioned why would be targeted by the military if his name wasn’t on the offending articles, why the journalist who covered the hotel takeover would be threatened, but not the mayor, the original source of the articles. The government also suggested that the raid on Gutiérrezes’ home had been routine at that time of the drug war, and suggested that if he felt threatened, Emilio could have moved elsewhere in Mexico. The prosecutor also questioned why the journalist had rejected an offer of bodyguards from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and instead chose to remain in the USA, despite the fact that the bodyguards might come from the Mexican military itself.

In July of 2017, US immigration judge Robert Hough ruled against the Gutiérrezes. Among other conclusions, Hough noted that Emilio had failed to obtain corroborating testimony and documents from witnesses in Mexico. The judge questioned why he had fled to the USA instead of moving elsewhere in Mexico, and whether the Mexican military would still kill him if he returned home. Emilio and Oscar were ordered to be removed from the USA, nine years after arrival.

The removal didn’t come immediately. Emilio and his lawyer sought to appeal Hough’s decision before the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals. Yet that would take time. Fortunately for Emilio, he had gained some notable allies in the US media. In October of 2017, he went to Washington, DC to accept the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.

In his acceptance speech at a black-tie gala, Emilio criticised the Mexican government for failing to protect journalists – but also blasted the USA, saying that American officials were failing to protect human rights at home even as they lectured other countries on the subject.

Detained again

Just over two months later, in December 2017, Emilio and Oscar appeared in El Paso for a routine immigration check-in while their appeal was still pending. To their surprise, they were placed in handcuffs and informed they would be deported immediately. 

Emilio’s lawyer, Eduardo Beckett, managed to win an emergency stay of the deportation order from the Board of Immigration Appeals just before they could be taken back to Mexico. But instead of being released to go home pending a hearing before the board’s appellate body, the two were placed back in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency detention centre. 

The months ticked by. Emilio grew frustrated and worried. He didn’t have access to his blood pressure medication. Life in the detention centre was grim.

“They destroy you mentally, physically and morally,” he said. “The person that isn’t sick gets sick in the detention centres.”

Outside the El Paso detention centre, Emilio’s supporters were looking for a lifeline. In February 2018, the National Press Club reached out to Lynette Clemetson, the director of a programme for journalists at the University of Michigan. The National Press Club was seeking support for an amicus brief in the Gutiérrezes’ case.

Clemetson started to read more about Gutiérrez and in April of 2018, she and the NPR journalist Luis Trelles went to meet him and Oscar in the detention centre in El Paso. When she met Gutiérrez, she decided to interview him for one of the university’s prestigious Knight-Wallace fellowships.

“Emilio has faced a bureaucracy and a migratory system that does not see the danger that he has faced due to his job,” said Trelles.

Clemetson and Trelles were sympathetic – and soon offered him a fellowship, but Gutiérrez was unable to accept since he was still in detention.

In May of 2018, there was a moment of victory. After the National Press Club, the Pen America Center and 16 other organisations filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Emilio’s behalf,  the Board of Immigration Appeals stayed the Gutiérrezes deportation order and ordered the El Paso immigration court to rehear the case. Despite this, Immigration and Customs Enforcement kept the Gutiérrezes in detention for two additional months. After seven months in detention,  Emilio and Oscar were released in July. Clemetson and the Gutiérrezes flew together to Michigan – where Emilio began his fellowship.

“His case exemplifies what we are supposed to stand up for,” said Clemetson.

Emilio Gutiérrez has received support from the Knight-Wallace programme at the University of Michigan as well as from numerous press freedom groups. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

A fleeting victory

During his time at the University of Michigan, Emilio took classes on migration, human rights and English. University life in Michigan was a change from Las Cruces, but still his future was clouded by uncertainty. The rehearing on his asylum case was still pending, and though Emilio had more allies helping him prepare supporting evidence, including a brief from a who’s who list of the most prominent journalism associations, nothing was certain. 

Among the problems for his asylum case was the fact that Alfonso Garcia Vega, the Mexican army general who threatened Emilio back in 2005, had since died. Despite this, Emilio argued that he still faced threats from other officers who worked with Vega and from the Mexican military generally, given his outspoken criticism of its corruption during his years in the USA. 

In addition, Emilio still had been unable to obtain written corroboration of his accounts of threats from his former editor at El Diario or from the friend who warned him of the threat to his life. “Nobody wrote a letter of support because they are afraid,” says Gutierrez. 

Another challenge was that the rehearing of his case was once again assigned to Judge Hough in El Paso, the same judge who had denied Emilio’s initial asylum request and ordered he and Oscar be deported. Such rulings by immigration judges are the norm in the El Paso immigration court, where on average only six per cent of asylum requests were approved between 2013 and 2018, according to data from Syracuse University’s TRAC database. That compares with a national approval rate for asylum of 35 per cent in 2018. 

In October of last year, a decade after they left Mexico, Emilio and Oscar had their request for asylum heard a second time in El Paso. In addition to Emilio, Clemetson, of the Knight-Wallace Foundation, testified in court on his behalf. But unfortunately for the Gutierrezes, the outcome was still the same. In a decision issued on 4 March, Hough found that Emilio’s testimony was “weak” and not credible. He found that the documentary evidence supporting Emilio’s argument that his life was threatened in Mexico to be insufficient, and that the threats against him by the Mexican military did not meet the legal test for demonstrating persecution. 

“Nothing in the record indicates that the respondent’s notoriety as a journalist would outlast his decade-long absence from Mexico, or that the military would single him out,” Hough wrote. 

For a second time, Oscar and Emilio were ordered to be deported back to Mexico. 

Hough, of course, could be right. Perhaps those who targeted him in the Mexican military have moved on.

But in the meantime, Mexico is as dangerous as ever for journalists. In January, a radio journalist who had been under protection by a Mexican government programme to defend journalists and human rights defenders was found dead near a highway in Baja California. Since then, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, another Baja California journalist was badly beaten by baseball-wielding men; a radio reporter in Sonora was shot dead in his home; an Oaxaca journalist survived being shot in the back and arm; and a sports reporter in Sinaloa was found dead after being apparently beaten to death. 

Nor is there reason to believe that the Mexican government can keep the military from carrying out attacks on civilians it chooses to target. A study published in 2017 by the Washington Office on Latin America found that of 505 investigations opened by Mexico’s attorney general into human rights violations by members of the military, just 16 ended with a conviction. Nor is the government better at investigating attacks on journalists. Attacks on reporters in Mexico are so common that the government has a special prosecutor to investigate such crimes. Since its creation in 2010, the office has opened 1,000 investigations, but obtained just seven convictions, according to Human Rights Watch. 

In an interview with Global Journalist, Emilio says he’s frustrated with the US immigration system and plans another appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Yet with two adverse rulings against him, his chances appear slim. In the meantime, he and Oscar live with the knowledge that they might be deported at any time. Still, Emilio is determined that no matter the outcome, he can’t go back to Mexico and live safely. 

“I hope the judge realises that we are not asking for asylum because we are looking for a green card, we are seeking asylum to preserve our lives,” he says.


Note: Global Journalist executive editor Kathy Kiely has done advocacy for the Gutierrezes through the National Press Club. Kiely was not involved in the editing or reporting of this story.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist is a website that features global press freedom and international news stories as well as a weekly radio program that airs on KBIA, mid-Missouri’s NPR affiliate, and partner stations in six other states. The website and radio show are produced jointly by professional staff and student journalists at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, the oldest school of journalism in the United States. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t lose your voice. Stay informed.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views.

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