IAPA Mourned Step Backward for Democracy in Guatemala


Miami (May 12, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) mourned the announcement of the definitive closure of elPeriodico of Guatemala, calling it "a step backward for democracy" in that country. Furthermore, the organization condemned the continuation of judicial harassment against journalists.

IAPA President Michael Greenspon said: "Any time a media outlet closes, it is a serious setback for democracy." Greenspon, Global Head of Licensing & Print Innovation for The New York Times, added: "It is the essential task of the independent press to scrutinize the public powers. For this reason, we deeply lament that Guatemala is losing a media outlet that has played an essential role for many years due to the legal, judicial, and economic pressure to which it was exposed."

In an announcement published on its digital portal, elPeriódico announced it would cease publication this coming Monday. On November 18, it ended the print format after the arrest on July 29 of its president and founder, José Rubén Zamora, accused of alleged money laundering, among other crimes. According to the newspaper, despite continuing the journalistic work and trying to maintain advertisers and subscriptions, "the situation is unsustainable," and "we are forced to stop the daily edition of elPeriódico," whose "last edition will be published on Monday, May 15."

Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the newspaper La Voz del Interior of Argentina, said: "We believed that what we identified in Guatemala as one of the main problems of press freedom, judicial harassment, could be reversed. However, we are dismayed to see that the persecution continues and increases if we consider that several journalists have left the country to avoid being prosecuted for obstruction of justice, a crime they are accused of for the mere fact of writing, speaking, and expressing their opinion about the process against Zamora."

"Our team resisted 287 days of persecution and political and economic pressures. But, unfortunately, the attacks did not cease. So far, four lawyers have been arrested, two are still in custody, and six journalists and three columnists are under investigation." At the same time, Zamora has accumulated four criminal cases against him, explained elPeriódico.

An IAPA international delegation visited Guatemala in December. After visiting Zamora in jail, attending a court hearing, and holding meetings with officials of the Executive Branch, the Public Prosecutor's Office, and representatives of civil society and human rights organizations, the IAPA concluded that "the weakness in the functioning of institutions is expressed in the lack of independence of public powers." Accordingly, IAPA demanded the government cease legal and judicial harassment.

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida.