Police escort journalist José Rubén Zamora to court in Guatemala City on June 14, 2023.
Police escort journalist José Rubén Zamora to court in Guatemala City on June 14, 2023, when he was given a six-year sentence for money laundering. Zamora remains in solitary confinement, awaiting a re-trial, after the conviction was overturned. (Photo: AP/Santiago Billy)

CPJ urges Guatemalan authorities to release José Rubén Zamora, allow fair trial

Update: A Guatemalan court ordered on May 15 that José Rubén Zamora be released to house arrest to await trial in the first of three cases against him. He was not immediately released as decisions remained pending in the other two cases. 

Mexico City, May 14, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls upon Guatemalan authorities to grant house arrest to the award-winning journalist José Rubén Zamora and to begin his trial, after almost two years in pre-trial detention.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the Ninth Criminal Court, in the capital Guatemala City, to consider Zamora’s request to be freed under house arrest.

“We urge Guatemala’s judiciary to grant house arrest to José Rubén Zamora after nearly two years in solitary confinement and to give him the chance to prove his innocence in court,” said CPJ Latin America Program Coordinator Cristina Zahar in São Paulo. “His ongoing imprisonment amounts to arbitrary detention and demands immediate action. Zamora must have the right to a fair trial and to practice journalism freely.”

On July 29, 2022, police raided the home of Zamora, founder and publisher of the acclaimed investigative daily newspaper elPeriódico, which was forced to close the following year.

On June 14, 2023, Zamora was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to six years in jail, in a ruling widely regarded as a retaliatory measure for his reporting on government corruption. On October 13, an appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.

Observers have documented severe irregularities in Zamora’s trial, including repeated delays in court proceedings, limited access to evidence, and challenges in maintaining legal representation as his lawyers have been harassed and jailed.

Zamora, 67, remains in pre-trial isolation, which has had detrimental effects on his physical health and well-being. Zamora previously told CPJ that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, which amounts to psychological torture, and that his cell was infested with insects.