Judge Jimi Brener Ramírez approved the investigation against reporters and columnists for publications on the criminal proceedings involving José Zamora Marroquín, founder of the media outlet and who has been in prison since July 2022. The journalistic entity accused that the Public Ministry wants to “intimidate ” to press workers in a country from which five had to leave in 2022 due to similar problems.
The situation of press freedom continues to be questioned in Guatemala, a point previously raised during the Government of Alejandro Giammattei. This time, a judge decided to investigate nine members of the investigative media ‘El Periódico’ for their work regarding the criminal proceedings against the prominent communicator José Rubén Zamora Marroquín.
Zamora Marroquín, who has been in prison since July 2022, is the founder of ‘El Periódico’, the most critical medium of the controversial Giammattei regime.
This Wednesday, March 1, the entity spoke out against the decision of magistrate Jimi Brener Ramírez to endorse the request of prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso and accused the Public Ministry of wanting to “intimidate journalists.”
The judge’s determination occurred in the context of a new session of the case against Zamora Marroquín developed last Tuesday.
“We call on the national press to close ranks to stop this new blow against freedom of expression,” said ‘El Periódico’ through a statement.
Monterroso’s request targets six journalists and two columnists, who have made “malicious publications” -according to the prosecutor’s perspective- about the judicial situation of Zamora Marroquín, who is facing a case for alleged money laundering and another for obstruction to Justice.
The Inter-American Press Association (SIP) explained that those indicated are the director Julia Corado, the columnists Edgar Gutiérrez and Gonzalo Marroquín and the journalists Rony Ríos, Alexander Valdez, Cristian Velix, Denis Aguilar and Gerson Ortiz.
“Basically, the intention is to limit the right of the population to be informed,” adds the letter released by the outlet.
‘El Periódico’ maintains that the criminal cases that are taking place against its founder and president are “flawed” and that their objective is to determine a conviction soon.
The IAPA, alarmed by the situation in Guatemala
The controversy transcended the borders of Guatemala. The Inter-American Press Association (SIP) urged that the advance against the journalists be stopped immediately and condemned the attempts to denounce the Justice.
“As we warned during our visit in December, the characteristics of the accusation and the irregularities that were denounced to put together the Zamora case raise concern that attempts are made to mount proceedings against other journalists,” said Michael Greenspon, president of the IAPA.
Greenspon –important member of the ‘New York Times’- was in Guatemala together with the president of the IAPA’s Freedom of the Press and Information Committee, Carlos Jornet, last December where they expressed their concerns about the time of the press workers in the country.
The IAPA leaders remarked that the new restrictions on Guatemalan reporters violate principles on freedom of expression from the declarations of Chapultepec, Salta and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Zamora Marroquín started the outlet in 1996 and in that time they have carried out more than 400 publications on acts of corruption in Guatemala.
But since its creator was arrested months ago, it had to reduce its staff by 50% and give up its print edition.
Freedom of expression has been in question for some time in the Giammattei Administration. In 2022, at least five Guatemalan press workers had to go into exile from the country due to intimidation and criminal prosecutions against them.