The arrest and judicial prosecution of journalist José Rubén Zamora, director of the newspaper, It has sparked a chain of condemnations from international organizations against the Guatemalan State, asking them to respect their guarantees and release them.
The businessman and communicator was arrested last Friday accused of money laundering by the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) and the Guatemalan Public Ministry led by Rafael Curruchiche and the attorney general. Consuelo Porras.
Both officials are sanctioned in the Engel List prepared by the United States Congress to single out “corrupt and anti-democratic actors” for alleged corruption and attacks on democratic institutions in Central America.
Before the judicial hearing scheduled for this Monday was suspended, with bizarre explanations as to why Zamora was not taken to the special court, international organizations have pointed to a clear persecution of the journalist due to the continuous investigations of the media outlet he founded in 1996 and which He has specialized in following cases of alleged corruption, both from previous and current governments, which has earned him national and international recognition for the work he has done.
The reactions of support for José Rubén Zamora came in torrents this Monday from the international sphere and also with journalists who have overcome “fear” by showing posters of support for their colleague in front of the Court Tower in the Guatemalan capital where the audience.
The US and the European Union ask for guarantees
The United States Department of State raised its statement regarding the capture of the communicator and has asked Guatemala to respect its guarantees and due judicial process against the director of the media outlet critical of President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration.
Guatemalan organizations and relatives of Zamora have warned about the conditions in which the journalist would be detained, apparently in a military garrison and incommunicado with his family.
The concern grows when the same Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, acknowledged this Monday morning that he did not know the whereabouts of José Rubén Zamora and said: “I fear for his life”, as he was not brought to court as was planned and as indicated by the legal status of the country.
“Safeguarding press freedom is essential to democracy. The United States urges full respect for due process under Guatemalan law and the protection of the personal security of José Rubén Zamora,” US government foreign affairs spokesman Brian A. Nichols posted on the social network Twitter.
The European Union joined the calls this Monday and asked the Guatemalan state to guarantee the security and due process of the detainee who would have declared a hunger strike after his capture.
The union of European nations also expressed its concern about the press freedom situation and expression in the Central American country. “The arrest of renowned journalist José Rubén Zamora, founder and owner of ‘the newspaper‘, raises serious concerns about freedom of the press in Guatemala,” the spokesman for Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs, explained on Twitter.
And he urged the Guatemalan authorities to “guarantee due process and security” for the detained communicator, as well as for the FECI assistant prosecutor, Samari Gómez Díaz, arrested along with Zamora on Friday, on charges of disclosing confidential information.
The Guatemalan Public Ministry attributes to Zamora charges of alleged crimes to commit money laundering, “blackmail, influence peddling, proposition and conspiracy to launder money.”
The journalist and director of the outlet was arrested five days after the newspaper published in the Sunday edition of July 24 a list of complaints against several officials and former officials of the Giammattei government accused of alleged corruption.
They demand freedom and respect precautionary measures
The arrest and prosecution of José Rubén Zamora, who received high international recognition for his journalistic work, has created a wave of condemnations from the international arena, especially from organizations that watch over the free exercise of journalism.
In an open letter published on Monday, the International Press Institute (IPI) demanded that the Guatemalan government release Zamora immediately and drop the charges attributed to him by the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office.
“The authorities must immediately release and drop the charges against José Rubén Zamora and refrain from abusing criminal proceedings to intimidate the press,” said IPI deputy director Scott Griffen.
The institution added that “the IPI global network strongly condemns this serious escalation of pressure on the media in Guatemala. Harassment of critical media is unacceptable in a democracy,” the statement said.
The Guatemalan media whose bank accounts have been frozen this Monday, which prevents it from honoring its work and business commitments, has received the solidarity of other journalistic companies in Guatemala that recognize that the process carries a clear message of “an act of persecution and censorship against critical media”.
From the US capital, the Washington Office on Latino Affairs (WOLA) also put its voice out along with other international organizations that have condemned the detention and criminal prosecution against judicial officialscritics of the Guatemalan government and now journalists.
“The attacks on the daily the newspaper and the arrest of Zamora are actions of an authoritarian state that does not comply with its international obligations in terms of human rights such as guaranteeing judicial independence, respecting the right to freedom of the press and refraining from interfering in the enjoyment of the same, “he said. WOW.
While noting that the newspaper “It has played a fundamental role in investigating, reporting and revealing serious cases of corruption and the links between organized crime and the Guatemalan political class,” which has been affected by the media’s publications.
This organization also reminded the Guatemalan state of its obligation to comply with the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) -based in Washington- to guarantee “the physical integrity and life of Zamora and the detained assistant prosecutor.”
Also the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from its headquarters in New York set off the alarms before the arrest of the journalist and director of the Guatemalan newspaper that in 2021 won the King of Spain Award, for his informative work in the Central American country.
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, CPJ’s advocacy director, noted that “The judicial persecution of journalists is a mechanism of intimidation, and the Guatemalan authorities must end their campaign of intimidation and threats against the press,” according to the statement.
The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), through its president Jorge Canahuati, has urged the Guatemalan government led by Giammattei to give “clear signs” of respect for due process and guarantees for press freedom in the country.
The IAPA has also pointed out the “disproportionality of the search operations” that have the purpose of “intimidating journalists and media outlets that monitor power” in that country.
Zamora’s defense attorney, Mario Castañeda, has complained that until the time Monday’s hearing was scheduled, he had not had access “to the judicial file” of the case, which limits his defense work as required by law. , and it would be “impossible to exercise a defense without knowing” the merits of the accusations.
The Public Ministry of Guatemala has placed the case “under reserve”, which would limit the media and citizens from addressing the issue, but the defender Castañeda said that the fiscal entity would be exceeding the right even by avoiding the legitimate defense be part of the lawsuit.
Under this clause, the office of Attorney General Consuelo Porras has not expressed opinions on the case other than the initial information on the case when the businessman and journalist was captured, and when it was presented to the media. The Guatemalan executive has also not expressed an opinion regarding the observations of the international community.
The spokesman for the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization (UN) Stéphane Dujarric, said that the highest authority of the organization António Guterres has expressed concern about the legal actions against justice operators in Guatemala.
“He is also closely following recent events related to the arrest of José Rubén Zamora (…) The Secretary General recalls that freedom of expression and of the press play a fundamental role in democratic societies,” said the UN spokesman.