Jen Reel

A Photojournalist Who Fled Mexico is Granted Asylum


Above: Miguel testifying at an Austin conference on press security in Latin America

One year ago, 31-year-old photojournalist Miguel Angel Lopez Solana fled Mexico because he no longer felt safe in his homeland. His father, the noted columnist and author Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco; his mother Agustina; and his 21-year-old brother Misael, also a photojournalist, were murdered in June 2011 in the port city of Veracruz by unidentified gunmen who broke into their home as they were sleeping. Miguel lived with his wife in another part of town. It was a fellow reporter, Gabriel Huge — a friend — who broke the terrible news. Within months, his friend would be murdered too.

Lopez’ father wrote about crime and politics for the Veracruz newspaper Notiver. Miguel and his brother worked for the same publication covering crime. The murders were part of a wave of assassinations of reporters that has yet to cease in the state of Veracruz, which has been engulfed by organized crime. In the last two years, nine journalists have been killed in Veracruz, and several have fled the state.

On Friday, Lopez’ immigration attorney, Carlos Spector, announced in an El Paso press conference that Lopez has been granted political asylum in the United States. Spector said in a press release that Lopez’ case marks the first time that the Mexico City office of the international organization Committee to Protect Journalists has assisted a Mexican journalist in seeking political asylum.

Lopez told me he feels relief and gratitude that his asylum has been granted, but that he is extremely frustrated and worried that nothing has been done in Veracruz to investigate the murders of his family and other journalists. “How is it possible that American justice can grant me asylum in one year and Mexican authorities have still not been able to solve the murders of my family, and it’s been two years,” he said. “I want justice for my family and all the other journalists who have had their lives ripped from them.”

Lopez said that “narcopolitics” has consumed his home state, and that the media is censored so that reporters cannot tell the truth. “My father always told me the journalist’s job was to uncover injustice. He was very passionate about his work,” Lopez told me when he first arrived last year. Now, he and his wife are struggling to make a new life in the United States. They continue to hope that things will get better in their homeland. “It’s a hard physical and mental process to survive all the trauma that we suffered in Mexico,” Lopez said. “We are still recovering from it and trying to adjust to a new culture, a new language.”

Veracruz has been deemed the deadliest Mexican state in which to practice journalism, according to CPJ. The national Mexican magazine Proceso recently reported that officials from the state of Veracruz have plotted to kill Jorge Carrasco, a Proceso journalist who has reported extensively on the murder of journalist Regina Martinez Perez, the magazine’s Veracruz-based correspondent. Martinez was murdered in her home last year.