A court opens a second criminal proceeding against the president of Guatemala's 'elPeriódico', José Rubén Zamora | International

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The journalist José Rubén Zamora attends the hearing for a case against him, this Tuesday in Guatemala City.Esteban Biba (EFE)

A Guatemalan court ruled this Tuesday that the president of the newspaper the newspaper, Jose Rubén Zamora, must face a second criminal process, for the alleged crime of conspiracy to obstruct justice. The Public Ministry accuses him of hiding the origin of $25,600 (about 700,000 quetzales). During the hearing, 10th Criminal Judge Jimi Bremer also ordered an investigation into "obstruction of justice" columnists for the newspaper Edgar Gutiérrez and Gonzalo Marroquín, the director of the outlet, Julia Corado, and a group of journalists who worked or are still linked to that newspaper, critical of the ruling party: Rony Ríos, Alexander Valdéz, Cristian Velix, Denis Aguilar and Gerson Ortiz. Guatemala suffers a judicial offensive against the independent press that arouses the repudiation of professional associations and organizations in defense of human rights.

The judge's resolution, based on the presentation of the prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso, asks to investigate "whoever is responsible for the commission of an illegal act." The prosecutor displayed several publications before the judge with which the newspaper covered the first case against Zamora, which he described as a "disinformation scaffolding." Monterroso asked that Zamora remain in prison so that the investigation against him is not hindered, since in his opinion the press publications "affect the physical integrity, principally honor or property" of the justice operators.

"Freedom of expression is not absolute," Monterroso came to affirm during his argument before the judge. The thesis of the Prosecutor's Office, which supports this offensive, is that the journalists are part of a plan to carry out actions such as "illegally investigating judges and prosecutors, even following them to their homes."

Follow media money

Monterroso also called to follow the sources of financing of other independent media and the organizations that finance them. The print edition of the newspaper it stopped circulating on December 1, 2022, after the administration laid off 80% of its workforce. The outlet attributed the dismissal to the financial suffocation experienced by the seizure of the accounts of the Aldea Global corporation, after Zamora's arrest on July 29, 2022. Zamora's former lawyer and the former financial director accepted the charges brought against them. charged the Prosecutor.

The first case against Zamora has to do with a cash transaction that he carried out with the former manager of the Banco de los Trabajadores, Ronald García Navarijo, who was arrested in 2018 on charges of laundering money or other assets, illicit association and embezzlement, in a case investigated by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The trial is scheduled for next May.

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Years later, in 2022, Navarijo became an effective collaborator of the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity (FECI) headed by prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, sanctioned by the United States Department of State for obstructing investigations against officials accused of corruption and filing complaints. spurious against justice operators.

The two criminal cases against the president of the newspaper They have been promoted by the lawyers Raúl Falla and Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, from the Foundation against Terrorism. Both act as representatives of García Navarijo, according to Francisco Solórzano, Zamora's lawyer. "I am willing to stay in jail for the rest of my life (...) there is a veiled dictatorship, very close to taking off its disguise," said an exhausted Jose Ruben Zamora, at the end of the hearing.

black hour of journalism

Every day, journalists in Guatemala face a serious decline in freedom of expression, in a scenario similar to that of their Nicaraguan colleagues, where any opinion or journalistic work is subject to criminal prosecution, said the vice president of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (APG). ), Mario Recinos.

The communicator also recalled that, according to Guatemalan regulations, criticizing officials in the exercise of their duties does not constitute a crime. In the event of any grievance, the mechanism that must be activated is that of the Printing Courts, Recinos explained.

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Nathan Rivera
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