National media outlets shrug as reporter Manuel Duran remains in ICE custody

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

On April 3, Manuel Duran, a seasoned journalist and newspaper owner in Memphis, TN, was arrested while covering a protest and placed in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where he has remained ever since. But major media outlets, except Spanish-language media, have almost completely ignored his plight and the significance of his story on press freedom.

Duran, who is originally from El Salvador but has lived in the U.S. for over a decade, was covering a protest over ICE’s inhumane treatment of immigrants when he was arrested along with nine protesters. Charges against Duran were dropped, but he was transferred to ICE custody in response to a deportation order from 2007. Duran is just one of many undocumented immigrants who seems to have been targeted for exposing ICE’s atrocities.

Since his arrest, his name has not been mentioned on any of the English-language national broadcast or cable news outlets, including CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News (CBS News’ website posted an Associated Press article about Duran getting a stay on his deportation). Similarly, top English-language newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times have ignored the story.

Meanwhile, social justice activists, press freedom groups, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) have rallied support for his release, noting that his life may be at risk if he is deported to El Salvador. Tennessee media outlets have steadily reported on his case, with his fiancée even appearing on News Channel 3 in Memphis to discuss his arrest. But Spanish-language news outlets Univision and Telemundo are driving national coverage. Univision published an April 5 article with footage of the protest as well as Duran’s self-recorded video of the events leading up to his arrest, which he had broadcast on Facebook Live. Univision also followed up on May 31, reporting that Duran’s deportation had been stayed. Telemundo reported on Duran’s story by underscoring the excessive use of force police had used to arrest him and the other protesters.

In a political climate where journalists and immigrants (documented or not) face serious threats, Duran’s experience is unique, and his colleagues in the national news media are doing a disservice by not telling his story.