IAPA Insists on Release of José Rubén Zamora Due to Flawed Trial

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Miami (July 28, 2023) - On the first anniversary of his imprisonment, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reiterated its public call for the immediate release of the president and founder of elPeriódico, José Rubén Zamora, who on June 14 was sentenced to six years in prison in a trial characterized by irregularities.

Zamora, 67, was arrested on July 29, 2022, and imprisoned in the Mariscal Zavala military prison. After being sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 300,000 quetzals (approximately US$38,000) for money laundering, IAPA, and numerous international organizations criticized the lack of due process and the violation of his right to defense.

IAPA President Michael Greenspon said: "We witnessed acts of intimidation and witch hunts against anyone associated with Zamora to diminish the possibility of a fair and impartial defense." Greenspon, Global Head of Licensing & Print Innovation for The New York Times, added: "The judiciary should show its independence and respect for democracy by recognizing the irregularities that surrounded the process."

The IAPA has been denouncing the use of the Public Prosecutor's Office as an arm of the political power of the government of President Alejandro Giammattei to file charges against Zamora's lawyers and block Zamora's defense possibilities. Also, the Public Prosecutor's Office charged six journalists and three columnists of elPeriódico for commenting on the case. As a result of political and economic pressures, the newspaper was forced to cease operations on May 15.

Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said, "The case of our colleague, who for years has been the victim of attacks, threats, and kidnapping and is in prison in reprisal for his internationally recognized journalistic work, is an example of how press freedom is violated." Jornet, editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, urged the corresponding authorities to review the judicial sentence based on international parameters of defense in trial and that in the meantime, "Zamora's immediate release" or at least that he be granted the benefit of house arrest.

On July 19, the U.S. State Department sanctioned and included in the Engel List criminal judge Fredy Orellana for "authorizing unsubstantiated and politically motivated criminal charges" against Zamora. The U.S. also sanctioned prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso, who presented the arguments against Zamora. President Giammattei rejected the sanctions and attributed them to "unfounded media accusations." In May 2022, the U.S. government also singled out the Attorney General and head of the Public Prosecutor's Office, Consuelo Porras, as a "corrupt actor" for her participation in significant acts of corruption.

In December 2022, after meetings in Guatemala with officials of the Executive Branch and the Public Ministry and with 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 authorities."

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, United States.

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