Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, president of the newspaper El Periodico, attends a hearing at the Justice Palace in Guatemala City on August 8, 2022. On August 9, a judge ordered Zamora to remain in pre-trial detention while prosecutors move forward with a criminal investigation. (AFP/Johan Ordonez)

Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora charged with financial crimes, remains in detention

New York, August 10, 2022–A judge in a Guatemala City court on Tuesday ordered Guatemalan journalist and president of the elPeriódico newspaper José Rubén Zamora to remain in pre-trial detention while prosecutors move forward with a criminal investigation on charges of money laundering, blackmail, and influence peddling. Zamora has been held since he was arrested at his home on July 29. The initial charging hearing, originally scheduled for August 1, was postponed multiple times before beginning on Monday, August 8.

In his decision, Judge Freddy Orellana said there was “reasonable suspicion” that Zamora had been involved in the alleged crimes, and ordered him to remain in detention for the remainder of the investigation, according to news reports. Judge Orellana ordered prosecutors to present evidence by November 9 and set the next hearing in the case for December 8, according to reports.

“The continued detention of José Rubén Zamora is completely unwarranted and shows that Guatemalan prosecutors are scrambling to find any excuse to justify their actions against a journalist who is critical of the government,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “Despite what Guatemalan politicians think, reporting on corruption is not a crime. Authorities must immediately drop the charges against Zamora, release him, and stop using the criminal justice system to attack the press.”

Last May, Guatemalan officials filed a criminal suit against three journalists from elPeriódico, including Zamora, under the violence against women law, as CPJ documented. Zamora was awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 1995.