The Guatemalan security forces arrested this Friday the renowned journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, president and founder of the media outlet El Periódico, winner in 2021 of one of the King of Spain International Journalism Awards, while they similarly raided the facilities of his morning.
Zamora remained under arrest in his home along with several relatives until 8:00 p.m. local time, more than six hours after the start of the raids on his home by the National Civil Police and the Public Ministry (Prosecutor’s Office), according to various sources.
The journalist is one of the main critics of the government presided over by Alejandro Giammattei and his arrest took place five days after strong denunciations of several officials and former officials for corruption in a Sunday section of the morning paper.
Zamora received in June 2021, from the hands of the King of Spain, Felipe VI, the Outstanding Media Award in Ibero-America, as part of the King of Spain International Journalism Awards.
The prosecutor in charge of the case in the Public Ministry, Rafael Curruchiche, indicated through official channels this Friday that Zamora was arrested for the crimes of blackmail, influence peddling and money laundering, and asserted that the case is “under reserve” for so no more information about it can be divulged.
“He is captured as a businessman, not as a journalist,” said the prosecutor, who added that Zamora must be presented within “24 hours or 6 hours” before the Judicial Branch.
Curruchiche was sanctioned this month by the United States on charges of “obstructing corruption investigations” in Guatemala and “pursuing apparently false investigations” of former anti-corruption prosecutors.
Zamora and his media have been opponents of the Giammattei government with the publication of dozens of reports on corruption in the Executive and on the Public Ministry in recent years.
The arrest warrant was issued by the Seventh Criminal Court of First Instance of the Judicial Branch, and assistant prosecutor Samari Gómez Díaz was arrested along with Zamora, accused of disclosing confidential information, Curruchiche said.
Concern for his integrity and that of his family
According to El Periódico, members of the National Civil Police and the Public Ministry entered Zamora’s house, in the west of Guatemala City, and also entered the morning’s facilities, where “they prohibited communication with the workers.”
Opposition deputy Jairo Flores was present this Friday night at the Zamora residence, where the journalist is being held by the security forces and the Public Ministry.
Flores told reporters that Zamora’s “physical integrity” is “greatly concerned” and “especially also that his little grandchildren are inside with him,” which “is a delicate situation.”
The legislator added that the Public Ministry should allow minors to leave the communicator’s residence.
The journalist, founder and president of El Periódico, denounced in October 2021 before public opinion that Giammattei, together with the attorney general and head of the Public Ministry, Consuelo Porras, “are fabricating” a case against him to imprison him.
Porras was sanctioned in September 2021 by the United States under accusations of “obstructing justice” in Guatemala, but despite this, Giammattei re-elected her last May for four more years.
The publications of Zamora and El Periódico in the last decade evidenced various acts of corruption in the governments of Otto Pérez Molina and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti (2021-2015), but also in the administrations of Jimmy Morales (2016-2020) and the Giammattei himself.
Several social organizations have publicly expressed their rejection this Friday of Zamora’s arrest, including the Association of Journalists of Guatemala, which considers the arrest “revenge” of Porras “for the investigations and criticism” issued against him by the media.
At least 24 former justice officials (prosecutors and judges) have had to leave Guatemala since 2018, although more frequently in recent months, due to their role in the anti-corruption fight between 2014 and 2021, according to the former attorney general ( 2014-2019) Thelma Aldana on May 20 last.
These officials have pointed out the legal persecution of the current head of Porras, re-elected last May by Giammattei for a period of four more years in office.
El Periódico emerged in 1996 under the leadership of Zamora, a 66-year-old engineer by profession, who has been honored with awards such as the International Press Freedom Awards in 1995, the María Moors Cabot Award that same year, and the International Press Institute World Press Freedom Heroes in the year 2000.