Journalist José Rubén Zamora arrives handcuffed at the Palace of Justice in Guatemala City, on June 14, 2023. A court convicted him on money laundering charges and sentenced him to six years in prison. (Johan Ordonez/AFP)

Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora convicted of money laundering, sentenced to 6 years in prison

Guatemala City, June 14, 2023–In response to the Wednesday, June 14, conviction of Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora on money laundering charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“The shameful conviction and imprisonment of Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora serve as a stark testament to the erosion of freedom of speech in the country and the desperate attempts of President Alejandro Giammattei’s government to criminalize journalism,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Guatemalan officials must end the absurd charade of criminal proceedings against him. It is time for José Rubén Zamora to be released, for his only ‘crime’ has been the fearless exercise of his profession.”

After more than a year on trial, Zamora, president of the elPeriódico newspaper, was convicted of money laundering and acquitted on blackmail and influence peddling charges. The court sentenced him to a six-year prison term and a fine of 300,000 quetzales (about US$38,000 dollars).

The journalist’s son, José Carlos Zamora, told CPJ that they intend to appeal the conviction.

Zamora has been in pretrial detention since July 29, 2022. Alongside him, eight elPeriódico journalists and columnists are also under investigation for obstructing justice due to their coverage of the legal proceedings. Zamora has also been recently charged with the crime of using false documents.

In April, a judge issued arrest warrants for three lawyers defending Zamora, and in May, elPeriódico ceased online publication and closed operations after 26 years.