Mexican journalist seeking asylum in the United States asks OAS to rule on insecurity in Mexico

Emilio Gutiérrez, a Mexican journalist seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing the drug-related violence in the northern region of the country, has petitioned the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate and rule on the inability of the Mexican government to protect the rights of journalists who have been threatened by the military since President Felipe Calderón began his anti-drug war in 2006, reported El Diario in El Paso, Texas.

This is the first such legal claim filed with the aim of clearing the way for Gutiérrez to obtain asylum in the United States, explained the Associated Press.

The journalist explained to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that although his request for the IACHR to intervene certainly helps his asylum claim, it in fact also is a way to seek justice for the "thousands of Mexicans facing a similar situation, but who live in the shadows and in permanent fear in the United States."

According to statistics from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, cited by Univisión, from 2006 to 2010, some 40,000 Mexicans have sought asylum in another country.

The journalist accused Calderón of having "declared a war but without any protocols to execute it, which has ended in an extermination... and thus he should be taken to the international court for crimes against humanity," he said. "We have the moral obligation to point out what is wrong so that ... the situation can gradually improve in Mexico."

Although his asylum request was set to go before an immigration judge in January, authorities have delayed any decision until May 2012.

In the petition, lawyers for Gutiérrez argued that the Mexican government has repeatedly failed to protect the journalist who has denounced the harassment and threats on the part of the military after writing articles documenting abuse by soldiers in the fight against drug traffickers in various border towns.

Gutiérrez worked for more than 25 years as a reporter in the state of Chihuahua -- on the border with the United States and ground zero for the drug trafficking violence in Mexico. The journalist and his son crossed the river Rio Bravo into the United States in Jun 2008 after a source told him that he was going to be killed.

Gutiérrez is not the only journalist to cross the border without papers and seek asylum: two other threatened journalists, Ricardo Chávez and Alejandro Hernández, are awaiting a decision on their asylum petitions.

Three Mexican journalists have been killed in the last month, and their colleagues have marched to pressure authorities to resolve the killings. Meanwhile, others have opted to abandon Mexico and to never return.

See this Knight Center map for more information about violence against the Mexican press.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.