RSF denounces judicial harassment of Guatemalan newspaper
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Guatemala’s judicial authorities to abandon an investigation into nine newspaper journalists accused of “disinformation” about their imprisoned publisher’s trial. The judicial harassment of the newspaper El Periódico must stop and its publisher must be released, RSF says
A new hearing was held on 28 February in the trial of El Periódico founder and publisher José Rubén Zamora, who has been detained provisionally for nearly seven months. Initially charged with blackmail, influence peddling and money laundering, he is now also accused of obstructing justice in connection with the accusations against the newspaper’s journalists of disinformation about the trial.
“After attacks against prosecutors and judges, the attacks against media that cover corruption is highlighting the gravity of the authoritarianism in Guatemala since Alejandro Giammattei became president in 2020,” said Artur Romeu, the director of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “This flagrant judicial persecution of El Periódico has dealt a severe blow to press freedom in Guatemala, in particular by imposing a climate of censorship. We call on the authorities to end this at once by dropping the charges against the journalists and José Rubén Zamora, and by freeing Zamora immediately.”
“They will not make us shut up,” El Periódico wrote on its website the day after the escalation in the proceedings against this leading national daily, which has been publishing investigative coverage of political corruption in Guatemala for the past 20 years.
The newspaper has always been subjected to threats, financial pressure and arbitrary judicial proceedings because of its reporting, but the harassment intensified after it reported in 2021 that Giammattei had been taking bribes. After Zamora’s arrest on 29 July 2022, its accounts were frozen, forcing it to stop producing a print version and to lay off 80% of its personnel. The trial is scheduled to resume on 2 May.
“More than personally, it is worrying for all journalists who scrutinise the authorities and denounce the irregularities they discover,” RSF’s correspondent in Guatemala was told by Alexander Valdez, one of the nine journalists being investigated. “It’s this kind of reporting that they are trying to censor.”
Journalists’ safety has deteriorated in Guatemala in recent years and five journalists fled the country in 2022 because of intimidation or judicial persecution.