Guatemalan journalist says he’s behind bars for exposing corruption

Guatemalan journalist says he’s behind bars for exposing corruption

28 Feb 2023 ( La Prensa Latina )

Guatemala City, Feb 28 (EFE).- One of Guatemala’s most respected journalists marked seven months behind bars Tuesday by accusing the government of President Alejandro Giammattei of punishing him for his newspaper’s exposure of official corruption.

“I have the conviction that I am in prison and isolated for the success of El Periodico, publishing 228 documented investigations of the corruption of this government,” Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin told EFE.

Zamora, the founder and editor of El Periodico, was taken into custody on July 29, 2022, after police spent nearly eight hours searching his residence in Guatemala City.

Over the past decade, El Periodico has uncovered instances of corruption in three different presidential administrations. The editor’s arrest came five days after the daily published a broadside against Giammattei and his cronies.

Originally indicted for blackmail, money laundering and influence-peddling, Zamora was arraigned Tuesday on a new charge of obstruction of justice.

“This second case against me is proof that I’m being persecuted by the state and its entire power of oppression,” the 67-year-old journalist said.

“The investigation we did about bribes from Russian mining companies to President Giammattei was certainly the case that provoked my arrest,” Zamora said.

A number of organizations, both inside and outside Guatemala, have denounced the arrest and prosecution of Zamora as a reprisal for his reporting.

Both Zamora and his defense team complained during Tuesday’s hearing that they were not duly informed of the new charge and that they have been denied access to evidence.

His trial on the blackmail and money-laundering counts is set for May.

Zamora is being held at Mariscal Zavala military prison in Guatemala City, where dozens of former officials convicted of corruption thanks to stories in El Periodico are serving their sentences.

In 2021, Zamora, who has survived an assassination attempt and a kidnapping over the course of his decades-long career, received from King Felipe VI a King of Spain International Journalism Prize on behalf of El Periodico.