WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - Press freedom advocates called Monday for US authorities to release from custody a Mexican journalist facing deportation to his home country where he says his life is endangered.
Members of news organizations and at least one lawmaker drew attention to the case of Emilio Gutierrez, who arrived in the United States a decade ago after reporting on abuses by Mexican military authorities.
Gutierrez spoke to a Washington news conference at the National Press Club via telephone from a detention center in Texas where he has been held since last week.
"I am terrorized to set foot in Mexico, I don't ever want to go back to Mexico," he said during the call.
Gutierrez, who was presented with the National Press Club Press Freedom Award earlier this year, was detained last week after an immigration panel denied his appeal for political asylum.
John Donnelly, a member of the press club's press freedom team, said the organization is urging the release of the 64-year-old Gutierrez.
"He came here after credibly perceiving that his life was in danger there because of his reporting," Donnelly told the news conference.
After his reporting on military abuses, Donnelly said, "he learned he was on a hit list, that's why he left Mexico."
US Congressman Don Beyer joined calls for the release by the office of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.
"Mr. Gutierrez is a well-known journalist who faces a clear and present danger should he return to Mexico. I implore @ICEgov to reconsider its decision to deport him," Beyer said in a tweet.
The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders also urged authorities to grant Gutierrez asylum.
"Emilio should be granted asylum. A return to Mexico, which is structurally violent and where journalists are regularly targeted, is out of the question for him," said Emmanuel Colombie, director of the group's Latin American region.
According to RSF, 11 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2017, making it the second deadliest country for members of the media, after Syria.
Eduardo Beckett, Gutierrez's lawyer, said he is willing to go to a third country but this poses logistical problems since he has no valid passport.