ICFJ calls for release of Guatemalan journalist, Zamora

…says it’s shameless attack on independent journalism

Non-profit professional organization that promoted journalism worldwide, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has called for the immediate release of journalist José Rubén Zamora in Guatemala and an end to the unjust legal assault on the publisher and his colleagues.


A court in Guatemala City on June 14 sentenced Zamora, a 2003 winner of the prestigious ICFJ Knight Award, to six years in prison on sham money laundering charges. The case is part of a multipronged campaign under President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration to delegitimize and silence Zamora and his colleagues at the esteemed independent news outlet, elPeriódico, which was forced to close in May due to ongoing harassment.


“The legal persecution of one of Latin America’s most celebrated journalists is a blatant and shameless attack on independent journalism in Guatemala,” ICFJ President Sharon Moshavi said. “His conviction has made headlines around the world because it is a clear affront to democratic norms. José Rubén, his colleagues and all reporters in Guatemala must be free and safe to do their jobs. ICFJ joins the chorus of press freedom advocates calling for an end to this charade and for José Rubén’s immediate release.”


Zamora was arrested July 29, 2022, during simultaneous raids on his home and newsroom, and has been behind bars in pre-trial detention ever since.


On June 14, after a trial spanning 20 days that included 11 sessions, a court in Guatemala City found Zamora guilty of money laundering but acquitted him on charges of blackmail and influence-peddling. Prosecutors, however, have said they intend to appeal those decisions and pursue 34 additional years of imprisonment.


Zamora also was recently charged with the crime of using false documents, while nine of his colleagues from elPeriódico are under investigation for obstructing justice for their coverage of the legal proceedings. A judge in May issued arrest warrants for three lawyers defending Zamora.


Since elPeriódico was founded 26 years ago, it has faced attacks under multiple government administrations. Yet despite the dangers, Zamora and his team have boldly and bravely exposed misuse of funds and power in a country that ranks among the worst in the world for corruption.


Meanwhile, Confiance News gathered that some recipients of the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award wrote him a letter expressing their support for him amid a clarion call for his immediate release.


Dear José Rubén,

Some of our names you will recognize, others you may not. But we enjoy a fellowship: Like you, we are recipients of the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award, and like you, we deeply believe that independent journalism is vital to inform and empower the public.

For a generation of Guatemalans, elPeriódico delivered unflinching investigative reporting under your leadership, exposing those in power who abused their positions and misused public funds. You and your colleagues did this despite physical attacks, threats and ongoing attempts from successive Guatemalan governments to economically crush your news outlet.

It is devastating that today, the government of Alejandro Giammattei has muzzled elPeriódico’s reporting and that you, one of the most celebrated journalists in Latin America, are behind bars. The authorities targeted you, delivering a message to all truth tellers: Independent journalism has no place here.

You deserve to be free, and the Guatemalan people deserve better. From across the world, we stand with you. We call on authorities to release you immediately. We call on the Guatemalan government to stop harassing your colleagues. And we call on others in the international community to draw attention to your case – an alarming bellwether of the state of press freedom in Guatemala, Central America, and many of our own countries.

In these times of democratic backsliding and rising attacks on a free press, it can be difficult not to despair. But your courage and steadfast commitment to journalism give us all hope and inspire us to do the hard work of speaking truth to power.


Source: ICFJ

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