MDIF is outraged at the six-year jail sentence handed out to José Rubén Zamora, founder and president of the investigative daily el Periódico.
The sentencing of Mr. Zamora on politically motivated charges of money laundering marks a new low in the Guatemalan government’s abuse of press freedom and demonstrates once again its determination to silence criticism, hide corruption and trample democratic norms.
Following a prosecution littered with gross irregularities and abuse of process by the authorities, on June 14, 2023, a court in Guatemala City sentenced Mr. Zamora, who has already been detained for more than 10 months, to six years in jail. Mr. Zamora was acquitted on charges of blackmail and influence-peddling, but the government has stated it intends to appeal those acquittals and seek an additional 34 years’ imprisonment. He also faces two more criminal cases.
There is no doubt that the charges against Mr. Zamora were fabricated with the sole purpose of silencing him and his newspaper, and the strategy has succeeded: with Mr. Zamora in jail and criminal proceedings brought against several of his colleagues and legal team, el Periódico was forced to close on 15 May.
The jailing of Mr. Zamora is the latest in a decades-long campaign by successive governments to silence the investigative reporting for which Mr. Zamora and his newspaper are renowned. This includes a mock execution, kidnapping, physical attacks and near-constant financial intimidation.
We call on the Guatemalan authorities to reverse this travesty of justice, drop all charges against Mr. Zamora and immediately release him from prison and to end its persecution of independent media.