Guatemala: IACHR condemns 6-year sentence against Rubén Zamora

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) expressed their concern about the 6-year prison sentence of journalist José Rubén Zamora in Guatemala, founder of elPeriódico.

"The IACHR and its RELE urge the State to respect the right to freedom of expression and of the press, and to refrain from using punitive power to intimidate people who demonstrate critical of the Government," said a statement.

According to public information, on June 14, the Eighth Criminal Sentencing Court sentenced the president and founder of El Periódico, José Rubén Zamora, to 6 years in prison for the crime of money laundering. El Periódico has been one of the most prominent media outlets in the country for exposing cases of corruption and abuse of power in recent years.

"Since his arrest on July 29, 2022, the IACHR and the RELE received information about the effects on the guarantees of due process, the prolonged use of preventive detention and serious limitations on the right to defense," it reads.

The criminalization of José Rubén Zamora was noted by the IACHR in the 2022 report on Guatemala, in which it "observed with concern that the context of effects on judicial independence in the country has contributed to exacerbating a climate of censorship and intense judicialization of other people who play a relevant role in public life and contribute to the democratic debate in Guatemala”.

In particular, those who have suffered the most are human rights defenders and media workers.

In addition, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reported that in recent months it learned of the opening of a criminal investigation against journalists and columnists for El Periódico, who were accused of the alleged crime of obstruction of justice due to a series of newspaper articles that covered to the judicial case of Zamora.

“It also warns that, in addition to this case, José Rubén Zamora faces two other criminal proceedings, one of them for the alleged crime of conspiracy to obstruct justice and another for the alleged use of false documents on a continuous basis. The journalist Zamora has been the beneficiary of precautionary measures from the IACHR since 2003 for reasons related to his journalistic work and the exercise of freedom of expression in Guatemala, ”says the agency.

On May 12, the definitive closure of El Periódico took place, "as a consequence of the reported obstacles to being able to continue operating normally since the arrest of Zamora, the intensification of judicial persecution against its members, as well as political and economic pressures ”.

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