78th General Assembly

October 27 – 30, 2022

Madrid, Spain


There is a profound deterioration of press freedom due to government actions - especially those by the Public Prosecutor's Office and Congress.

Since the beginning of his term in office, the government of President Alejandro Giammattei has had a strained relationship with the independent press. Anyone who thinks differently is considered an enemy, an opponent or an agitator.

In this climate of animosity against the press, the Public Prosecutor's Office (MP) attacked prominent critical journalists - known for their constant denunciation of public corruption. The most flagrant case is the jailing of José Rubén Zamora - president of elPeriódico, and of Flora Silva - financial manager of of the same media, a newspaper that investigates and denounces corruption; as well as the case of Juan Luis Font - of the digital and television media "Con Criterio." Also against Carlos Choc, of Prensa Comunitaria, against whom a judge declared unfounded the accusations made against him as a result of his coverage of a demonstration against a mine in Izabal.

The attacks against the press include accusations of alleged crimes from the Public Prosecutor's Office or organizations such as the "Foundation Against Terrorism" (FCT) led by lawyers Ricardo Méndez Ruiz and Raúl Falla, recently included on the U.S. Engel List - accused of Obstruction of Justice. The attacks also come from the current prosecutor against impunity, Rafael Curruchiche.

The FCT is a joint plaintiff or has promoted in the last year several criminal proceedings against independent justice operators - mostly judges and former prosecutors who investigated high-profile corruption cases. It has also supported military officers accused of human rights violations and condemned the trial of former general Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide.

The strategy of the Public Prosecutor's Office on cases of high public interest has been to "keep them under reservation" - which means not releasing any information or confirming that the case exists.

On July 29, the Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the arrest of José Rubén Zamora - president of elPeriódico - who remains jailed. He is accused of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail.

Zamora is being subjected to the typical delay tactics in legal proceedings: arrest on a Friday, arraignment on a Saturday, so that the detainee remains in preventive detention - no alternative measures are granted - delay of first hearing before the judge and application of a trial delay of three to four months - in order to keep the person in jail.

When Zamora was arrested, the offices of elPeriódico were also raided. The prosecutors and officers of the National Civil Police (PNC) held eight employees for 16 hours and denied the printing plant workers access to the newspaper's printing facilities. The newspaper published the next day thanks to other media outlets that printed their copies.

On August 20, the Public Prosecutor's Office also arrested and charged Flora Silva - financial manager of elPeriódico - with money laundering, implicating her in the Zamora case.

Media coverage of the raids and arrests of Zamora and Silva showed that the operations involved unidentified vehicles with covered license plates. The responsible agencies said they didn't know who used those vehicles.

According to Zamora's relatives and journalists, the Public Prosecutor's Office evidence is poorly supported. The case is based on the testimony of an individual who was charged with money laundering in 2016 and 2017. Zamora's defense alleges possible tampering of evidence by the Public Prosecutor's Office.

In April 2022, journalist Juan Luis Font left the country amid rumors of his imminent arrest. Since then he broadcasts his opinion program "Con Criterio" from an unspecified location. There is no known action against him - or information. The journalist says he fears for his physical and legal safety.

Also, several journalists continue to be accused or investigated for the alleged crime of femicide. This is the case of the executives of the newspaper La Hora: Óscar Clemente Marroquín and Pedro Pablo Marroquín. A judge ordered them not to "harass" Alejandra Carrillo - former congresswoman and current director of the Institute for Victims. The newspaper published investigations questioning Carrillo's work for awarding positions to close associates of congressmen. Carillo is the wife of congressman Felipe Alejos, included in the US Engel list - accused of favoring corruption elites.

Prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor's Office also ordered several journalists and media outlets to reveal their sources of information in cases where judges and prosecutors reported threats and intimidation.

On July 29, the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG) published its biannual report - which registers 66 violations to freedom of expression. The main aggressors include the Presidency of the Republic, the Judiciary and the National Police.

This period saw an increase in the use of netcenters - which are said to be managed by people close to the government to discredit and attack journalists. Attacks are carried out on social networks through private information of journalists or photos of close relatives and spouses. Journalists are also intimidated by posting photos on their profiles when they are working or doing interviews.

Officials often refuse to provide information to journalists - either by avoiding press conferences or by classifying the information. There have also been cases of government pressure against private advertisers to pull out or reduce advertising in critical media.

This year the legislature shelved a bill against cyber-crime - which would have allowed public officials to sue anyone they consider to be "offending" them on social networks. It also shelved another bill that would have authorized the National Civil Police and the Army to violently dissolve civilian demonstrations.