Mr. Zamora, a high-profile and outspoken critic of government corruption, had been held in pre-trial detention since July 2022, before going to trial in May 2023 on charges of money laundering, blackmail, and influence peddling. A three-judge panel found him guilty of money laundering but dismissed the other charges. Prosecutors had originally asked the judge for a 40-year sentence.

Eight El Periódico journalists – two columnists and six reporters – are also under investigation for alleged obstruction of justice linked to their reporting of the case against Mr. Zamora. Four of his attorneys were jailed on what independent legal experts have condemned as “spurious” charges, while two others fled the country to avoid a similar fate.

One of Guatemala’s leading independent journalists, Jose Rubén Zamora is also the president of El Periódico, an internationally renowned investigative daily that has been publishing for 26 years. The newspaper ended its print edition due to “political and economic pressure” in December 2022, but continued to publish online until 15th May this year, when it was also forced to shut down.

The Board of WAN-IFRA condemns what appears to be the politically motivated, deliberate targeting of El Periódico and its personnel by President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration as nothing short of retaliation for critical reporting on accusations of corruption at the highest level.

Furthermore, the Board is deeply concerned that some 20 journalists are reportedly in exile due to the current crackdown against those associated with anti-corruption efforts. The Board calls for the immediate release of Jose Rubén Zamora and the dropping of all charges against him. It urges the Guatemalan authorities to cease their harassment of independent news organisations and to recognise the essential role of the press in exposing corruption and improving accountability on behalf of the people of Guatemala.

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