National Press Club Statement on Guatemalan Journalist Zamora

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 9:00 AM CDT

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Following is a statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the arrest of José Rubén Zamora, president of the Guatemalan newspaper elPeriódico, on July 29 in Guatemala City.

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"The Guatemalan government must immediately release José Rubén Zamora and drop all charges against him. We view these charges, which include money laundering and extortion, as spurious and part of a broader campaign by the government of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras to weaponize the judiciary system against those who would expose and root out corruption in the country. Those targeted individuals include independent, crusading journalists like José Rubén Zamora, whose newspaper elPeriódico has reported on wrongdoing inside the Giammattei government.

"We further note with concern Zamora's announcement shortly after his arrest that he would begin a hunger strike in protest of his detention. If Zamora's health deteriorates and his life is put at risk because of this, the international blame and censure that will fall upon the Giammattei government will surely be severe and immense. Over his long and distinguished career, Zamora has been the recipient of multiple international journalism awards including from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Center for Journalists, and Columbia University.

"Additionally, the National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are worried about the overall deterioration of the press freedom climate in Guatemala. For example Guatemalan authorities in May charged three journalists at elPeriódico, including Zamora, under an anti-female violence law for the alleged psychological crime of reporting on a female government official's links to corruption. And criminal charges brought on seemingly bogus grounds have prompted other Guatemalan journalists, such as Juan Luis Font, to flee the country. We view these developments as part of a broader and deeply concerning pattern in Central America of certain autocratic governments -- resistant to public calls for reform and accountability -- increasingly sharing the same playbook of weaponizing judicial tools of the state to intimidate and silence journalists. If this culture of judicial oppression of the press as well as of civil society and nongovernmental organizations continues to spread, we fear the destabilizing impacts will spread far outside the region."

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the U.S. and worldwide. The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.

Contact: Bill McCarren, 202-662-7534 for the National Press Club

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