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Right now, the future of U.S. press freedom seems murky.

A sitting president has waged war on a range of news organizations. The spread of misinformation has eroded public trust. And the recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner is dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons.

It seems bad. And yet, the truth is we’re willfully unaware of the worst threat of all: intimidation and detainment of journalists right here on U.S. soil.

A reporter under siege

Right now, well-known Memphis journalist Manuel Duran is behind bars in a direct attack on the First Amendment. Free Press and 26 press-freedom, civil-rights and civil-liberties groups are calling for his immediate release.

Local police arrested Duran last month for covering a demonstration against the local police department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for targeting the undocumented community.

Duran was wearing a brightly colored press badge. Demonstrators repeatedly told police he was a reporter. Nonetheless, local police arrested him for doing his job.

Then they dropped all charges and transferred Duran who is undocumented to the custody of ICE.

Threat of deportation

In 2006, Duran fled to the United States from El Salvador because his life was in danger. Since then, he has become a critical journalistic voice in Memphis for covering stories that challenge over-policing of the immigrant community.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and local activists, Manuel Duran was targeted for arrest in retaliation for his coverage.

Now Duran’s life is on the line: Last Thursday, a judge denied a request to reopen Duran’s case, and he could be deported at any minute.

It’s time to protect the right to report. It’s time to restore public trust and access to news and information. And it’s time to end insider journalism.

While journalists and politicians argue about a comedian’s monologue at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a reporter is sitting in a detention center.

As we debate the state of journalism, energy should be channeled in support of reporters like Duran — those who hold the powerful accountable and lift up the voices of communities facing discrimination daily.

Manuel Duran and all journalists deserve to do their jobs free from fear: Tell ICE’s regional director to free Manuel Duran now.

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