José Rubén Zamora granted conditional release, but remains in jail

José Rubén Zamora granted conditional release, but remains in jail

A Guatemalan court ordered the conditional release of journalist José Rubén Zamora, founder of now defunct Guatemalan newspaper el Periódico, in a trumped-up charge of money laundering. However, Zamora, who has been detained since July 2022, is not permitted to leave the military barracks in Guatemala city until another case of obstruction-of-justice has been decided by the court.

The decision of conditional release on 15 May 2024 came after the judges noted that they could no longer see reason to keep Mr Zamora behind bars, noting that he was “not considered a flight risk or a threat to the investigation”. Zamora, who has been behind bars for nearly two years under different charges said during his trial on Wednesday, “During my entire life I have been the victim of attacks, abductions, aggressions for the work that I do.”

Zamora’s sentencing in the money laundering case last year, one which was littered with gross irregularities and abuse of process by the authorities on politically motivated charges, came on top of multiple other charges of blackmail and influence-peddling, for which he had been acquitted.

The spate of charges against the journalist demonstrates the establishment’s pointed efforts to silence criticism, which succeeded when el Periódico was forced to shut down in May last year after a decades-long campaign by successive governments to silence the investigative reporting for which Mr. Zamora and his newspaper are known for.

While we welcome Mr. Zamora’s conditional release in the money laundering case as a big step forward, we call on Guatemalan judicial authorities to deliver timely justice in the other pending case against him so that the journalist can walk home free and Guatemalan citizens’ faith in rule of law and the independence of media is re-instilled.

You can read more Zamora’s case from Al Jazeera here, The Guardian here and the Committee to Protect Journalists here and more about the pending case here and here.