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Media Groups Say Journalists Are Being Harassed At U.S.-Mexico Border

Feb 12, 2019
Originally published on February 12, 2019 5:41 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Mexican and U.S. border authorities have put journalists covering the caravans of Central American migrants under unusual scrutiny. In one case, a photojournalist was denied re-entry into Mexico. Media rights groups say the trend is troubling and infringes on press freedom. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Freelance photographer Mark Abramson spent the last two weeks of December in Tijuana, Mexico, covering the recent arrival of Central American migrants to the northern border city. When he finished his assignment and attempted to cross back into the U.S. through the port of entry in San Diego, Calif., he says a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent referred him to a secondary inspection waiting room.

MARK ABRAMSON: They had me leave my stuff there. I couldn't take it with me. And a plainclothes agent took me into another interrogation room with no windows to question me for about 30 minutes.

KAHN: Abramson says the agent, who was friendly, began asking him questions about his work, assignments and whether he could identify the leaders of the migrant caravan. Abramson says it's his job to inform the public, not the U.S. government. Alexandra Ellerbeck with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says they have received complaints from as many as eight journalists who were referred to secondary inspections at U.S. border entries and asked similar questions. In one case, two U.S. photographers were shown pictures and asked them to identify so-called instigators of the caravan. Ellerbeck says she's concerned about U.S. agents' actions.

ALEXANDRA ELLERBECK: And try to get information from journalists about their sources or their reporting or information they're gathering - it has huge implications for press freedom.

KAHN: Ellerbeck says her group has received complaints, too, about journalists and immigration lawyers being denied re-entry into Mexico after working with migrants from the caravan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not have a comment available for this report, nor did Mexico's national immigration agency. Carrie Kahn, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.