A Guatemalan judge ordered on Tuesday to investigate nine Guatemalan journalists and columnists who work – or worked – in the newspaper El Periódico, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, which has complained that the publications on the actions of justice operators could constitute crimes .
Judge Jimi Bremer instructed, in order to find out if prosecutors, justice operators, judges, magistrates or any other person who may be subject to proceedings in a case are being maliciously affected, “so that it be investigated.”
Among the journalists mentioned, who cover the judicial source, the Public Ministry and who have published anti-corruption investigations, there are also the director of the newspaper Julia Corado, the only woman, and the columnist and former foreign minister Édgar Gutiérrez. They have chosen not to comment on what they consider a stigmatizing accusation against the media.
Prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso – who is also prosecuting another case for which the president of El Periódico, José Rubén Zamora, is imprisoned for money laundering – complained to the magistrate at the hearing, arguing that the outlet publishes about complaints , disciplinary processes and doubtful rulings by justice operators, including her, and that it is necessary to investigate who orders the publications, as well as the financing of the media.
The president of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists, Mario Recinos, denounced a “regression in freedoms.” The union representative recalled that the constitution establishes that criticism of officials is not a “crime” and “it also protects freedom of the press and opinion.” And he added: “We are on alert, because this is a reflection of what is happening in countries like Nicaragua.”
At the same hearing, the judge linked Zamora to a new criminal proceeding, this time for conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Zamora has been detained for more than six months for the crimes of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail that the prosecution charges against him. According to the investigative body, the journalist, one of the most critical of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, would have received $38,000 from a person and then asked his friend Rnald García Navarijo, prosecuted for corruption, to deposit the money in a bank.
Zamora’s defense maintains that he did not bank the money in his own account to avoid knowing who the donor was. Zamora has said that the money was a donation to cover expenses of the morning newspaper that was going through a financial crisis after having its official advertisement withdrawn.
The donor did not want to be identified. According to relatives of the journalist, various businessmen have been harassed and pressured not to advertise in the media.
After denouncing Zamora, his friend García Navarijo was granted freedom by the Constitutional Court.
Various national and international press entities have condemned what they consider to be persecution of Zamora and his outlet, which specializes in anti-corruption complaints.