Guatemalan authorities raid newspaper offices and arrest journalist José Rubén Zamora


Authorities say Zamora, the director of the newspaper El Periódico, is suspected of involvement in a money laundering case.

But his son José Carlos Zamora told CNN he believed the arrest was an act of retaliation and an attempt at censorship because of the newspaper’s criticism of President Alejandro Giammattei’s government.

Zamora “is one of the main critics of Alejandro Giammattei’s government, and his arrest came five days after strong charges against several officials and former officials for corruption in a Sunday morning newspaper section,” El Periodico said in a statement. on Twitter.

Zamora’s arrest “has nothing to do with his activities as a journalist,” Special Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche told Emisoras Unidas radio station.

Authorities raided the newspaper’s offices and Zamora’s home before arresting him, Curruchiche also said.

CNN has asked prosecutors for more information, but has not yet received a response. CNN has also contacted Zamora’s legal representation, but has not yet received a response.

“Guatemalan authorities must immediately release and drop any charges against journalist José Rubén Zamora, president of elPeriódico,” said Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, the Advocacy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

US State Department Undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols also spoke out against Zamora’s detention on Twitter, urging Guatemala to “fully respect due process”.

Press freedom is enshrined in Guatemala’s constitution. However, according to press freedom organization Reporters without Borders (RSF), journalists have been increasingly targeted in their reporting in recent years.

“Journalists and media investigating or criticizing corruption and human rights violations often face aggression in the form of intimidation campaigns and criminal prosecution,” RSF said.

In 2022, the organization ranked Guatemala as 124th out of 180 countries worldwide on its annual Press Freedom Index.

Many journalists in Guatemala feel they are being watched, said Evelyn Blanck, journalist and coordinator of Centro Civitas, a free speech organization.

“Now we are looking at El Periódico’s response. And since (police) also raided the facilities of the newspaper and been there for more than 12 hours, we want to know if they took any documents, we want to know if they have the equipment In other words, we’re concerned about editorial security,” Blanck told CNN.

She also pointed to a trend of attacks on the press elsewhere in the region, notably citing the example of Nicaragua, where arrests of critics and raids on editors have been documented repeatedly since the massive protests in the country in 2018.

“My view is that what happened is that these anti-democratic actors looked carefully” [Nicaraguan President Daniel] Ortega’s actions and also evaluated the international response. And in that sense, the case of Nicaragua has set a precedent for what has now happened in El Salvador, in Guatemala.”

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