The IAPA presents a legal brief in support of journalist José Rubén Zamora

Welcomes the closure of the criminal investigation against journalists and columnists of elPeriódico.

Miami (May 1, 2024) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) filed a legal amicus curiae brief before the criminal chamber of the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice, in support of journalist José Rubén Zamora. The founder and president of elPeriódico has been imprisoned since 2022 in retaliation for his work, after being accused of the alleged crime of money laundering.

Zamora has been imprisoned in the Mariscal Zavala military prison since late July 2022 for his journalistic investigations into corruption, following judicial proceedings with numerous irregularities and flaws.

Last October, Guatemala's Second Court of Appeals overturned Zamora's six-year prison sentence and ordered a new trial. As a result of political and economic pressures, elPeriódico was forced to cease operations on May 15, 2023.

The legal document, signed by Roberto Rock, president of the IAPA and director of the Mexican portal La Silla Rota, argues that Zamora, who has been in prison for over 640 days, is "deprived of liberty without a conviction. This delay," Rock added, "violates international standards regarding pretrial detention."

The document urges the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice to "expeditiously resolve the request for alternative measures to stop the continuous violation of due process and the right to personal freedom" of Zamora. It argues that "keeping him in pretrial detention, within a spurious process in which all fundamental rights have been violated, is unreasonable. Not considering the request for review is an abstention from the duty to dispense justice."

Citing articles of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Constitution, and referencing jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court on pretrial detention, the amicus curiae establishes that "in the present case, it is an ARBITRARY detention according to the limitations established by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as it may be violating Article 9 of the ACHR and Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

It also relies on Articles 7.3 (arbitrary detention or imprisonment) and 8.2 (presumption of innocence) of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in that regard.

On the other hand, the IAPA considered the closure of the criminal case against journalists Rony Ríos, Denis Aguilar, Alexander Valdez, Cristian Vélix, Julia Corado, and Gerson Ortiz, as well as columnists Edgar Gutiérrez and Gonzalo Marroquín, former president of the organization, as "good news for press freedom in Guatemala."

In March 2023, the Guatemalan justice system prosecuted the eight journalists for a series of articles published about the trial against Zamora.

On January 25, an international delegation from the IAPA and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met with President Bernardo Arévalo, who said that the Zamora case is "emblematic" of the political persecution the journalist was subjected to for his denunciations.

During their mission to Guatemala, IAPA and CPJ delegates visited Zamora in prison, where he denounced the blatant violations and methods of torture, both psychological and physical, to which he has been subjected during his prolonged imprisonment.

In December 2022, another IAPA mission attended one of the trial hearings and visited Zamora in his cell, where, after months of imprisonment in deplorable conditions, improvements had been made days before, to neutralize international complaints.

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.