Trial of El Periódico founder Jose Rubén Zamora set to begin on December 8

The trial of Jose Rubén Zamora, the founder and President of investigative daily El Periódico and one of Guatemala’s leading independent journalists, is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2022. Mr Zamora has been held in jail since his arrest in July and faces up to 34 years in prison if convicted. On 30 November, El Periódico stopped publishing its print edition amid the continued pressure the company has faced since Zamora’s arrest.

Mr Zamora’s prosecution on highly dubious charges appears to be politically motivated and a response to El Periódico’s reporting. The Clooney Foundation for Justice is monitoring the trial.

Mr Zamora was arrested at his home on 29 July on charges of blackmail and money laundering in what appears to be a politically motivated prosecution; charges of money laundering are often confected to prosecute critics. Prosecutors concluded their investigation and presented a formal indictment on November 9.

Soon after his arrest, Mr Zamora was ordered to be held in three months of preventive detention and remains in jail. He denies all charges against him. Flora Silva, financial manager of El Periódico was also arrested in August and investigators raided the offices of El Periódico, holding some of its employees for more than 16 hours. Bank accounts of el Periódico were seized for a week.

Mr Zamora’s arrest sparked an outpouring of condemnation, including from local press groups and international press freedom organisations, who have described the arrest as a blatant attempt to punish Mr Zamora for his newspaper’s exposure of corruption at the heart of the government of President Alejandro Giammattei.

Scores of anti-corruption prosecutors, judges and activists are currently under police investigation or have fled the country, as the government seeks to crack down on transparency.

Fears are growing that the government may now be turning it’s sights on silencing independent media.

Mr Zamora has been at the forefront of exposing human rights abuses and corruption in Guatemala for more than two decades and has won multiple national and international awards for his work.

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