The IFJ has backed calls by its affiliate, the National Writers Union, for the US authorities to release Tennessee journalist Manuel Duran Ortega immediately.
Manuel Duran Ortega, a journalist based in Memphis, Tennessee, was arrested by the police on April 3, and has been held in a detention center by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since.
Duran was arrested while covering a local immigration rights protest that took place during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The police made the arrest despite the fact that he was carrying a press card. He was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway or passageway.
The charge was dropped on April 5, but Duran was then turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and has been held in an ICE detention center in Jena, Louisiana ever since.
Duran used to be a TV station manager in El Salvador, He came to the US more than a decade ago as an undocumented immigrant after his life was threatened. He is believed to have been targeted for his consistent coverage of police abuse and misconduct, immigration detention centers and coordination between Memphis police and ICE.
The NWU condemned the arrest as a reflection on “both the war on immigrants as well as the war on press freedom being led by the White House”. On July 8, the NWU joined 26 US press freedom, civil rights, labor and civil liberties groups to submit a letter demanding his release.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “This attack is not only an outrageous intrusion on press freedom, but also a violation of the human rights of immigrants. The IFJ strongly condemns this act, and urges the US authorities to free Manuel immediately”.