MIAMI, Florida (May 10, 2019)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed its condemnation of a judicial order that prohibits the Guatemalan newspaper elPeriódico from publishing information about a female candidate in the presidential elections. The organization said the measure responds to a political strategy that seeks to censor and intimidate the media outlet.
Sandra Torres, a candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for next June, of the Unidad Nacional de Esperanza (UNE) party, presented a complaint of anti-feminism against six editors of elPeriódico newspaper running the National, Sports, Culture, Photography, Investigation and Design sections, and the newspaper's sales manager. The lawsuit, which had been rejected in February, was reverted by an appeals court which prohibited the paper from writing and publishing information about the candidate, at the same time that it ordered protective measures in her favor.
IAPA President María Elvira Domínguez declared "Regrettably in Guatemala there are precedents of public figures that unduly use laws created for other purposes to gagging news media that investigate and denounce or give opinions about corruption in the public administration."
Domínguez, editor of the Cali, Colombia, newspaper El País, called for the judicial order to be annulled because it infringes constitutional and legal principles on freedom of expression in the Central American country.
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, declared that candidate Torres "is using the law to censor criticisms that she does not tolerate and then ignores what is established by the Constitution and the Law of Diffusion of Thought."
Rock, editor of the online news portal La Silla Rota, added, "Decisions such as these limit the work of the practice of journalism and encourages self-censorship, just when greater transparency is needed in an electoral process so that citizens obtain the necessary information to make decisions or choose conscientiously."
In April, appealing to the "Law against anti-feminism and other forms of violence against women" of 2008, Torres also denounced as anti-feminist two public prosecutors of the Special District Attorney's Office Against Impunity (FECI) subscribed to the Attorney General's Office. The court that deals with these offenses issued precautionary measures in favor of Torres and prohibited the prosecutors from "getting near to, disturbing or intimidating" her.
In August 2018 another court ordered the editor of elPeriódico, José Zamora, to abstain from disturbing Torres, who was First Lady from 2008 to 2011. In 2014 a female judge issued an order that also prohibited Zamora from approaching then Vice President, Roxana Baldetti.
Torres, along with other presidential candidates, signed the Declaration of Chapultepec during the previous electoral process in 2015.
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 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.