José Rubén Zamora Marroquín is a renowned Guatemalan journalist and founder of three of the most read newspapers in Guatemala and Central America: Siglo Veintiuno, Nuestro Diario and elPeriódico. One of the most outspoken critics of the Guatemalan government led by President Alejandro Giammattei, together with his colleagues at elPeriódico, Zamora has focused on investigating and exposing corruption in public administration and the private sector.
On 29 July 2022, Zamora was arrested at his home and brought to jail by the National Civil Police. On the same day his bank accounts were frozen. On 30 July, the headquarters of elPeriódico were occupied by officers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civil Police, who isolated the newspaper’s employees, preventing them from leaving the building. A few weeks later Flora Silva, the newspaper’s financial director, was also taken into custody. Both were arrested by the Prosecutor’s Office on trumped up charges of money laundering, blackmailing, influence peddling and conspiracy to launder money.
Zamora’s arrest came five days after strong accusations of corruption against several present and past government officials were published in a Sunday edition of elPeriódico. However, repression and threats against the journalist have been going on for years. In 2003, his home was raided following the publication of the investigations Ríos Montt investigations, La Mafia y el Ejército, and some of his notes.
In October 2021, Zamora accused President Giammatti and Consuelo Porras, Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, of fabricating a case against him in order to imprison and silence him. In September 2021, Porras was sanctioned by the United States on charges of obstruction of justice in Guatemala. Acts of corruption were also revealed in investigations by Zamora throughout various presidential administrations.
International and regional human rights and civil society organizations such as the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG), have publicly condemned Zamora’s detention as a clear attack on freedom of expression in Guatemala. Most recently in September 2022, Pedro Vaca Villarreal, the Inter America Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, in his statement R196/22 expressed concern about the lack of guarantees for the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Guatemala, and called on the government to fully and effectively guarantee these rights.
Zamora is the beneficiary of precautionary measures issued by the IACHR since 2003, upon recognition of the risks he faces in relation to his work as journalist.
“It is time to pull our national politics out of the quicksand of corruption, impunity and drugs and transform it into a solid foundation; to build a decent, just, civilised country, where dreams, hopes and demands are answered and where we all fit, in a context of respect and plurality…As for me, I will spend my last day in jail, if necessary, as a political prisoner of Giammattei, Miguelito and the Pact of Corrupts, before I murder my conscience”.
Rubén Zamora’s speech for the Day of the Journalist in Nicaragua, 2019.
The Guatemalan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release José Rubén Zamora Marroquín and end all criminal proceedings against him. This is what you can do:
1. Write to the Guatemalan authorities calling for José Rubén Zamora Marroquín’s immediate and unconditional release, and the cessation of all ongoing criminal proceedings against him.
Appeals can be sent to:
- President of Guatemala
- Dr. Alejandro Giammattei
- Email: email@example.com,
- Twitter: @DrGiammattei
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.giammattei/?hl=es
- Vicepresident of Guatemala
- César Guillermo Castillo Reyes
- Twitter @GuilleCastilloR
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Attorney General of Guatemala and Head of Public Prosecutor’s Office
- Dra. María Consuelo Porras Argueta
- Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mpguatemala/?ref=page_internal
- Twitter: @MPguatemala
- Instagram: mpguatemala
- Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Mario Búcaro Flores
- Email: email@example.com
- Twitter: @MarioBucaroGT
- Director of the Guatemalan Penitentiary System
- Joaquín Rodrigo Flores Guzmán
- Twitter: @Dgspg
Please send an email expressing your concern to the Guatemalan Embassies in your country.
Please inform PEN International of any action you take and any feedback you receive.
Raise awareness of Zamora’s case on social media, using the sample messages below and the hashtags #JoséRubénZamora #ImprisonedWriter
Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora has been unjustly imprisoned since July 2022, in relation to his investigations into corruption within the Guatemalan government. Today I join PEN International in calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Please take action with us, together we are stronger #JoséRubénZamora #ImprisonedWriter [insert link].
I support PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign and stand in solidarity with Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora. Will you call for his release? Your voice matters #JoséRubénZamora #ImprisonedWriter [insert link].
Guatemalan journalist #JoséRubénZamora is unjustly detained for his investigations into corruption within the Guatemalan government. With @pen_int, I call for his release. Please take action with us, together we are stronger. RT #ImprisonedWriter @ChepeZamora [insert link].
I support PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign and stand in solidarity with Guatemalan journalist #JoséRubénZamora. Will you call for his release? Your voice matters #ImprisonedWriter @ChepeZamora [insert link].
Please share this graphic on social media to highlight the case of José Rubén Zamora Marroquín.
Please send messages in solidarity to Zamora using the form here.
Please consider electing him as an honorary member of your Center.
We also encourage you to highlight Zamora’s case and the state of freedom of expression in Guatemala by:
• Publishing articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press.
• Organising public events, press conferences and demonstrations.
• Promote his writings.
Please keep us informed of your activities. Messages can be sent to Alicia Quiñones, PEN International Americas Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.