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Need to Protect Press Freedom in Guatemala

Journalist Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin is escorted by prison guards after his court hearing in Guatemala

This is the Guatemalan Government's latest move against a newspaper known for investigative reporting on public officials and government corruption.

Need to Protect Press Freedom in Guatemala
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The United States is “deeply concerned by reports of a court order to investigate nine Guatemalan journalists for obstruction of justice,” declared State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. These individuals include journalists from El Periódico and its president, José Rubén Zamora, who has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in July 2022.

It was the government’s latest move against El Periódico, the newspaper known for investigative reporting on public officials and government corruption.

In December, a judge ordered that Zamora stand trial on charges of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail. In a February hearing, a judge, acting on a request by prosecutor Cinthya Monterroso of the Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office, ordered an investigation into journalists and columnists of El Periódico newspaper as part of a new criminal case against Zamora. She alleged these reporters had obstructed justice by criticizing the prosecutor’s office for its actions against Zamora and not telling the truth about the charges against him.

Mario Recinos, president of the Guatemalan Association of Journalists, said “we’re seeing a deterioration in rights.”

“The Constitution establishes that criticism of officials is not a crime,” he said. “It also protects freedom of the press and opinion.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined the call for an immediate halt to any investigation into the columnists and employees of El Periódico and any further prosecution of its president, José Ruben Zamora. Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York, said, “Authorities’ targeting of the publication’s staff after Zamora’s arrest on dubious financial charges is a clear attempt by the prosecutors to intimidate and harass an investigative outlet and journalists working tirelessly to expose corruption.”

“Peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive societies depend on the free flow of information and ideas, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information both online and offline,” said spokesperson Price. “Criminalizing the work of journalists and civil society undermines democratic norms and respect for freedom of expression.”

Spokesperson Price “urge(d) the Guatemalan justice system to reject the criminalization of independent journalists and support independent journalism as one of the foundations of a secure and prosperous democratic society.”