CPJ, international journalists, call on Guatemalan president to release journalist José Rubén Zamora

His Excellency Alejandro Giammattei
Republic of Guatemala

December 20, 2022

Sent via email

Dear President Giammattei,

We are writing to express our deep concern over—and opposition to—the continued detention of and criminal charges against international award-winning journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, whose trial proceedings began on December 8. 

Zamora, the founder and director of multiple outlets including the daily newspaper, elPeriódico, has been recognized with Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the King of Spain International Journalism Award, and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, among other prizes, for his decades of exceptional journalism.

We have followed the case against Zamora and elPeriódico with great concern since July, when police detained him on charges of blackmail, influence peddling, and money laundering for receiving $38,000 intended for elPeriódico. To date, prosecutors have failed to present any compelling evidence that Zamora committed any illegal act in accepting money donated to the newspaper; the main witness against Zamora and other elPeriódico employees charged in the case is a former banker himself accused of corruption. Nor have we seen any legitimate arguments at the court or appellate level for keeping Zamora behind bars for the more than four months he has already awaited trial. 

Zamora’s family has reported that the 66-year-old journalist is being kept in virtual solitary confinement, with limited access to water and food, and that he has faced arbitrary changes to visiting hours, according to filings by his attorneys with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. His pre-trial detention violates Article 7 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which Guatemala has ratified. Even if, as prosecutors have stated in court, authorities are concerned that Zamora may try to influence the testimony of his employees, keeping him in pre-trial detention is hardly the only—though it is certainly the most overtly punitive—way to prevent such communication that does not involve violating Zamora’s rights or risking his health and safety.

Zamora has faced multiple threats and serious attacks on his life because of his reporting. As you are well aware, in 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted Zamora precautionary measures to protect him from persecution for his work, following a home invasion and violent attacks against his family by individuals who identified themselves at the time as agents of the Guatemalan National Civil Police and Guatemala’s Public Ministry. 

We also are concerned about the timeline of events in Zamora’s case, that elPeriódico was set to publish articles alleging government corruption in the days immediately preceding the charges against him, and that because of his detention and the case against him and other newspaper employees, elPeriódico recently was forced to cease print publication. 

We call on your administration to immediately and unconditionally release Zamora, drop the unwarranted and undue criminal charges against him and other members of elPeriódico, and ensure the press is allowed to cover his trial proceedings free of any censorship or interference. Finally, we urge you to allow investigative journalists to work freely and safely to open a new chapter in Guatemalan history, one that defines the country as a leader in protecting freedom of expression in the Americas.


Aaron Glantz, executive-in-residence, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
Adamy Gianinni dos Santos
Alex Goldmark, JSK journalism fellow
Alina Fichter, DW, Germany
Amie Ferris-Rotman, New Lines Magazine
Ana Maria Carrano, El Detector, Univision
András Kepes
Andrea Elliott, journalist
Ann Hayward, independent
Ann Marie Lipinski, Nieman Foundation for Journalism
Anne Marie Sorensen, Politiken, Denmark
Anuradha Bhasin, Kashmir Times
Barbara Maseda, Proyecto Inventario
Berifi Apenteng, Ghana Journalists Association
Beth Duff-Brown, journalist
Betsy O’Donovan, assistant professor, Department of Journalism, Western Washington University
Bob Thompson, retired, The Washington Post
Bruce Benson, alumnus, JSK Journalism Fellowship
Bryan Pollard, The Associated Press
Burt Herman
Camila Segura, directora editorial, Radio Ambulante
Carlos Dada, journalist
Carlos F. Chamorro, journalist, director, Confidencial, Nicaragua
Carlos Martínez de la Serna, Committee to Protect Journalists
Carlos Puig, Class of 1998, Nieman fellow
Carolina Guerrero, El hilo, Radio Ambulante
Cheryl Devall, KRVS, Lafayette, Louisiana
Chicas Poderosas
Christianne Gonzalez, Brasil NewsCom
Christy George, freelance public radio editor
Cinar Oskay, JSK journalism fellow
Cíntia de Lima
Cristina Tardáguila, Agência Lupa (Brasil)
Cristina Zahar, Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji)
Dagmar Thiel, Fundamedios
Daniela Pinheiro
David Dow, Society of Professional Journalists
David Trujillo, Radio Ambulante
Dawn Garcia, director, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, Stanford University
Djordje Padejski, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, Stanford University
Dr. Luisa Ortiz Pérez, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Eduardo Goulart, OCCRP
Ergun Babahan, retired
Eric Ortiz
Eric Pryne, retired, The Seattle Times
Eric V Tait Jr., EVT Educational Productions
Eric Westervelt, NPR
Erich Vogt, University of Toronto
Ewa Zadrzynska, freelance writer
Fátima Cabañas, Cultura CoOp México
Federica Bianchi, L’Espresso
Florencia Coelho, La Nación, Argentina
Gabriel Sama
Gail Ablow, Class of 2004, JSK journalism fellow; producer, Anna Deavere Smith Projects
Geoff McGhee, independent
Guilherme Amado, Abraji
Guillermo López Portillo, Nmas, Televisa
Hansheng Chen, freelancer
Howard Berkes, retired correspondent, NPR Investigations Unit
Ian Stewart, International Studies Institute, University of New Mexico
Ivan Martínez-Vargas, reporter
Izabela Moi, Agência Mural de Jornalismo das Periferias
Jake Nicol, JSK journalism fellow
Janet Rae-Dupree, freelancer
Janine Zacharia, Stanford University
Jenifer McKim, GBH News, Boston
Jeremy Adam Smith, University of California, Berkeley
Jim Colgan, former JSK journalism fellow
Joan Laatz Jewett, The Oregonian
Joe Copeland, InvestigateWest
Jorge Imbaquingo, El Comercio, Ecuador
Joseph Neff, The Marshall Project
Joseph Poliszuk
Joshua Benton, Harvard University
Juan Ortiz, Giro Latino
Juan Pablo Meneses, Universidad Portátil
Judith Torrea, independent border reporter, Ciudad Juárez
Julia Michaels, Riorealblog
Katy Newton
Kennedy Jawoko, former JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Kirit Radia, ABC News
Krista Almanzan
Laura Wides-Muñoz, author and journalist; Class of 2013, Nieman fellow
Louis Freedberg, California Media Collaborative
Luiza Duarte, independent journalist
Luz María Helguero, Democracia Desarrollo y Prensa Regional
Maggie Jones, freelancer
Marcelo Träsel, Abraji
Márcia Bechara
Margarita Assenova, The Jamestown Foundation
María Lilly Delgado, periodista independiente, Nicaragua
Maritza L. Felix, Conecta Arizona
Marta Alencar, Coar
Mary Aviles, JSK journalism fellow
Matt Kiefer, Chicago Public Media
Maya Vidon-White, freelance journalist
Melissa Chan, independent journalist
Michael V. Marcotte, University of New Mexico
Natalia Mazotte, Insper University
Natalie Pawelski
Nathalie Alvaray
New Mexico Local News Fund
Nuno Vargas
Oleksandr Akymenko, Class of 2016, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Owais Aslam Ali, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Pam Maples, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, Stanford University
Patricia Mercado Sánchez, Conexión Migrante
Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher, Black Voice News
Paulynn Sicam, Women Writers in Media Now, Philippines
Peter H. Lewis, Asheville Watchdog
Peter Y. Sussman, journalist and author
Phillip Martin, GBH News Boston
Raquel Salomão Utsch de Carvalho
Rebecca Aguilar, Latinas in Journalism
Reinaldo Chaves
Relly Davidsoh, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, Stanford University
Rick Young
Rita Neubauer
Roman Anin, editor-in-chief, IStories, Russia
Ronnie Hess
Rosental Calmon Alves, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas
Ryan Nakashima, JSK journalism fellow
Seema Yasmin
Sérgio Spagnuolo, Núcleo Jornalismo, Brasil
Sexa Muradyan Public Journalism Club
Shahrazad Encinias, freelance journalist
Sharon Salyer, journalist
Silvia Lisboa, Matinal, Brasil
Steve Harris, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Stuart Gannes, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Subbu Vincent, Class of 2016, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Takeshi Kawasaki, independent journalist, Japan
Teresa Mioli, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas
Tiago Rogero, Abraji
Tim Regan-Porter, Colorado Press Association
Tom Gibboney, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University
Vicki Monks, freelance Journalist
Vinnee Tong, JSK journalism fellow, Stanford University