IAPA repeats readiness to send international mission to the Central American country
Miami (January 22, 2014)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concerns regarding a complaint of fiscal harassment against the Guatemalan newspaper elPeriódico following an announcement from the official tax collection agency stating its plan to audit the paper, and the lack of withdrawal from the President and Vice President’s criminal lawsuits against the editor.
elPeriódico had complained earlier today of “fiscal persecution” by the Tax Administration Superintendency (SAT) which will begin a “verification of documents” starting next Monday. The notification of this action, which demands the presentation of main and auxiliary account books, salary records, members’ and executives’ information, among other documents, came two days after the newspaper made denunciations of members of the government.
President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Ingrid Roxana Baldetti Elias had publicly announced they would be withdrawing the criminal charges brought against elPeriódico editor José Rubén Zamora, but this has not yet occurred. The President said he could continue his lawsuit under the Law on the Expression of Thought, which provides for the creation of special courts, an Honor Tribunal, to resolve conflicts of a civil nature with journalists.
After repeating the IAPA’s readiness to send an international delegation to Guatemala with the objective of taking up the Zamora case with the leading authorities and follow-up with the progress of the murders of journalists, Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said, “We note with concern that this appears to be another action taken against Zamora and his newspaper because of its denunciations and criticism of those in power.”
Prior to announcement of this fiscal audit, the IAPA protested against other financial actions taken against elPeriódico, among them the withdrawal of official advertising the promotion of a commercial boycott by privately-owned companies, cyber-attacks and the filing of lawsuits.
According to elPeriódico, it stopped receiving advertising revenue amounting to more than $1.5 million, due to these acts of financial restriction; in addition to recurring to additional and expensive legal defense costs.
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, cited the OAS Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, whose 13th principle establishes that … “Direct or indirect pressures exerted upon journalists or other social communicators to stifle the dissemination of information are incompatible with freedom of expression.”
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.