37 media freedom organizations call on Guatemalan authorities to free José Rubén Zamora

New York City, July 28, 2023: On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the jailing of José Rubén Zamora, 37 media- and democracy-supporting organizations have called on the Guatemalan authorities to release the journalist immediately.

Mr. Zamora, founder and president of the investigative daily el Periódico and one of Guatemala’s fiercest critics of corruption, was detained on 29 July 2022 and accused of money laundering, blackmail and influence peddling. On 14 June 2023, he was sentenced to six years in jail on what human rights activists and international groups decried as trumped-up charges aimed at silencing him for his newspaper’s critical reporting. Prosecutors have indicated that they may seek further jail time for Mr. Zamora.

36 organizations, including Amnesty International, Fundación Gabo and the International Center for Journalists, have joined MDIF in signing a petition calling on the Guatemalan authorities to release Mr. Zamora without delay.

The prosecution of Mr. Zamora, which has been littered with gross irregularities and abuse of process, has led to the closure of el Periódico. With Mr Zamora in jail, nine of the newspaper’s journalists placed under investigation and several of his lawyers arrested or intimidated, the investigative daily was forced to close on 15 May.

In a statement last month, MDIF described the jailing of Mr. Zamora as “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”.

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, countless court actions and near-constant financial intimidation.

Mr. Zamora’s jailing occurs against a background of declining press freedom – from an already low base – since Alejandro Giammattei became President in 2020. Before his election, the country stood at 116 in Reporters sans frontières’ World Press Freedom Index. Three years later, Guatemala has fallen to the 127th place. Since taking office, President Giammattei has displayed a hostile attitude towards the media. According to the Journalists Association of Guatemala, more than 380 attacks against journalists and their work were recorded in the country between 2020 and 2022.

The 37 signatories to the petition calling for Mr Zamora’s release are: Acclaim Nigeria International Magazine (ANIM), Agência Mural de Jornalismo das Periferias, Amnesty International, Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo, Baraza Media Lab, Border Center for Journalists and Bloggers, Brazilian National Newspapers Association (AJN), Center for Sustainable Media, Centre for Law and Democracy, Chicas Poderosas, Citurna Producciones, CMSolutions, Daily Nawa-I-AhmedPurSharqia, Daraj, Earth Effect, Emro Associates, Factchequeado, Fundación Gabo, Fundación, Fundacion para el Periodismo, Gazety Taratra, GK Ecuador, Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), Index on Censorship, International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Media and Journalism Research Center (MJRC), Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Mutante, Pakistan Press Foundation, PEN International, Project Syndicate, Raseef22, Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP), The Continuous Innovation Network (CINet), World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

If you are interested in joining us and showing support for José Rubén, please sign and share the #ZamoraLibre petition, available here.

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