A court in Guatemala on Monday suspended a hearing for journalist José Rubén Zamora, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of money laundering in a case that is seen as a possible attempt to silence critics of the government of the Central American nation.
The seventh criminal court did not give details about the suspension of the hearing in which the communicator’s case would be explained and which had been scheduled for the morning hours. A new date for the procedure was not reported either. Zamora was still being held in the Mariscal Zavala prison, on a military base in Guatemala City.
The journalist’s lawyer, Mario Castañeda, informed the press about the suspension of the hearing and said that it could be held on Tuesday. Furthermore, he said that he has not had access to the file.
Zamora was arrested on Friday. The authorities raided his residence and the newspaper’s offices.
The journalist is pointed out by the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) in an alleged case of money laundering of which no details are known. The head of this office is Rafael Curruchiche, who was sanctioned by the United States Department of State for pointing out that he hinders the fight against corruption in Guatemala.
The prosecutor said that the case against Zamora is for his activity as a businessman and not as a journalist.
However, the editor-in-chief of El Periódico, Gerson Ortiz, said that the newspaper’s bank accounts were seized at the request of the FECI. This was also reported by the social networks of the morning paper, which questioned the work of the prosecution.
“The bank accounts were seized at the request of the FECI, with the sole intention of paralyzing the finances (of) said media outlet, preventing them from fulfilling their labor and contractual obligations,” he explained.
Ramón Zamora, son of the detained journalist, stated that the actions of the Public Ministry, led by Consuelo Porras, also sanctioned by the United States, are an attack on Guatemala’s democracy.
“This is not a case against my dad, it is a systematic attack on freedom of expression and democracy. They started with activists, they continued with prosecutors, and now they are starting to follow journalists,” he noted.
Zamora is an industrial engineer, businessman and journalist who founded El Periódico in 1996. This outlet has specialized in investigating cases of corruption and revealed irregularities during the presidencies of Álvaro Colom (2008-2012), Otto Pérez Molina (2012-2015), Jimmy Morales (2016-2020) and the current government of President Alejandro Giammattei.
In 2003, Zamora’s home was raided by state security agents, who threatened to kill him. This occurred after publishing a column in which he referred to the former head of state José Efraín Ríos Montt, who was president of the Congress of the Republic at the time.
In August 2008, Zamora was kidnapped by an armed commando in Guatemala City. After being held for more than 10 hours, he was abandoned in the department of Chimaltenango, 56 kilometers from the place of kidnapping. He was found with signs of violence and had been drugged.
El Periódico’s work has been recognized internationally. In 2021, Zamora received the award for Outstanding Media in Ibero-America from the King of Spain. In 1995 he received the Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia University, among others.