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SPJ optimistic about reopening of Duran case


J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, atarquinio@spj.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, zberg@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased that the Board of Immigration Appeals has reopened the case of jailed, Spanish-language journalist Manuel Duran.

Duran was arrested in April 2018 while covering a protest in Memphis on immigration policies. Charges related to the protest were dropped but he was picked up by immigration agents and detained.

Many press freedom groups, including SPJ, have argued that Duran’s arrest was in retaliation for reporting on controversial issues relating to Tennessee law enforcement. His previous investigative reporting had exposed collusion between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Memphis law enforcement.

“Mr. Duran’s detention is a flagrant violation of press freedom. Journalists, whatever their immigration status, should never be detained in this country because of their reporting,” said SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio.

“We are pleased that the Board of Immigration Appeals has reopened his case and hope his asylum will be granted and he can be reunited with his family,” Tarquinio said. “Mr. Duran has covered the Spanish-speaking community in Memphis for over a decade. To force him back to El Salvador, where threats have been made on his life, would be inhumane and unjust.”

In an amicus brief signed by SPJ and 25 other media organizations in May 2018, SPJ argued that Duran’s motion to reopen should be considered in the context of the Government’s flagrant violations of his First Amendment rights to speak freely and to be free from retaliation for that speech.

“Freedom of the press has been a hallmark of our nation and so it has been tragic to follow the case of this journalist held for more than a year in an immigration purgatory, separated from his family primarily because he covered a story about local police handing over suspected immigrants to federal immigration authorities,” said Chair of the Legal Defense Fund Committee Hagit Limor. “This case violates so many facets of the First Amendment on which this country was founded.”

Duran is fighting deportation to his native El Salvador, arguing that if sent back he might die due to the persecution of journalists. The BIA rejected the government’s brief and accepted the argument that conditions have changed in El Salvador since 2007, ruling that Duran has established a case for asylum.

A date for the hearing has not been set.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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