#FreeZamora: RSF launches petition calling for the release of elPeriódico editor held for past year in Guatemala
On 29 July, journalist Jose Rubén Zamora completes one year in detention in Guatemala. Subjected to judicial harassment, in June 2023 he was sentenced to six years in prison on trumped-up charges. Sign the petition by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calling for the release of this newspaper owner and publisher, whose case is emblematic of the persecution of journalists in Guatemala, a country where democracy is now in greater danger than ever.
One of Guatemala’s most prominent journalists, Jose Rubén Zamora has launched three newspapers, including elPeriódico, a leading national daily that has tirelessly exposed the corruption of President Alejandro Giammattei’s government in recent years. It finally had to shut down in May as a result of being financially throttled by heavy fines as the target of judicial persecution.
Detained since 29 July 2022, Zamora was sentenced on 14 June to six years in prison on money-laundering charges based on nothing more than an absence of documentary justification for the origin of a transfer intended to keep elPeriódico afloat. During a prison visit by RSF and two other press freedom organisations in Guatemala last May, Zamora, who has lost 16 kilos in detention, reported that he had been subjected to psychological torture.His cell was infested with insects during the first month of detention, and the prison authorities have often subjected him to sleep deprivation.
With one of Guatemala’s leading journalists now in prison, elPeriódico closed and the judicial system doing the government’s bidding, journalism and the expression of criticism are now heavily compromised by media self-censorship at a politically crucial moment in Guatemala’s history. After eight years of decline in democratic standards and freedoms, several candidates were prevented from running in the presidential election’s first round, and the Public Ministry is now seeking the dissolution of the party of one of the first round’s two front-runners to prevent him from contesting the second round run-off on 20 August.
It is clear that Zamora is a scapegoat and that his conviction is being used to send a message to the whole professions. During a joint mission to the country last May, RSF was able to observe the judicial harassment targeting journalists who investigate corruption or simply cover trials of those close to power. This criminalisation of journalism has increased in recent years, driving at least 20 journalists into exile, according to the Guatemalan Association of Journalists (APG).
Democracy and journalism are in danger in Guatemala. Jose Rubén Zamora’s conviction without a fair trial and the judicial persecution against his newspaper are unacceptable. Sign the #FreeZamora petition!