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Guatemala's 'ElPeriodico' newspaper to shut down amid founder's prosecution

Award-winning journalist Jose Ruben Zamora is escorted by police after ending the first day of his trial on money laundering charges, in Guatemala City, Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
Santiago Billy/AP
/
AP
Award-winning journalist Jose Ruben Zamora is escorted by police after ending the first day of his trial on money laundering charges, in Guatemala City, Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

GUATEMALA CITY — A Guatemalan newspaper known for hard-hitting investigations of government corruption and whose founder is currently on trial, announced Friday that it will shut down.

ElPeriódico had stopped its print edition in November, but had continued to publish as a digital outlet.

José Rubén Zamora is on trial for money laundering and other charges, allegations he has said were trumped up to silence an independent media outlet that has been critical of President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration.

ElPeriódico will cease to publish May 15, the news outlet said in a statement.

Prosecutors accuse Zamora of money laundering related to a deposit of about $30,000 he asked someone else to make for him. Zamora’s relatives have said it was a donation from a supporter to cover the day-to-day costs of the paper after advertising fell off under government pressure. Zamora has said he didn’t deposit the money in the newspaper’s account because the donor didn’t want to be identified.

In addition to Zamora, nine other journalists and columnists from ElPeriódico are under investigation for alleged obstruction of justice.

“Our team resisted 287 days of persecution, political and economic pressure,” elPeriódico said in reference to the time since Zamora was jailed last year.

The Guatemalan Association of Journalists and human rights activists have called the case a politically motivated campaign against Zamora because of his anti-corruption efforts.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday the announcement comes after 10 months of judicial harassment of the newspaper, its founder and journalists.

"The decision of the elPeriódico newspaper to cease publication is the result of the President Alejandro Giammattei administration’s judicial and financial harassment of the outlet’s founder, José Rubén Zamora, and its journalists for their critical reporting on corruption,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in a statement. “The international community should send a clear message ahead of Guatemala’s upcoming presidential elections by demanding that Giammattei immediately release Zamora.”

In an email to CPJ, José Zamora, son of José Rubén Zamora, called the closure of elPeriódico "devastating."

“The simple fact of doing journalism–investigating and denouncing corruption–must not be criminalized,” the younger Zamora wrote to CPJ. "One hundred [and] sixty-six exceptional professionals have lost their jobs, and 17 million citizens have lost an important source of information to them."

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