Politics A prominent journalist has been arrested in a pro-democracy...

A prominent journalist has been arrested in a pro-democracy crackdown in Guatemala

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A prominent Guatemalan journalist has been arrested on charges of money laundering and blackmail, signaling political rivalry in the nation.

José Ruben Zamora, president of El Periodico newspaper and a vocal critic of the Guatemalan government, was arrested Friday evening. While driving from his home, Zamora, who goes by “Chepe”. The arrests were described as “conspiracy” and “persecution”.

inside Video addressRafael Curuchich, head of Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, said Zamora’s arrest was linked to his “position as a businessman” and “has nothing to do with his work as a journalist.”

However, ElPeriodico’s offices were also raided on Friday, with some employees detained by authorities for more than 16 hours. According to the newspaper.

After his arrest, Zamora has said he will participate in a hunger strike.

“I have decided to stop drinking water, coffee and food as a small gesture of protest against my arrest, which is a political action,” Zamora told reporters from a holding cell in a Guatemala City court. “I consider myself a political prisoner.”

Members of Congress and human rights groups have condemned Zamora’s arrest as an attempt by the Guatemalan government to quell the opposition.

“The arrest of Chepe Zamora signals the next phase of dismantling democratic institutions,” said Juan Papier, senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, during a Twitter space with members of civil society and journalists on Friday. “First it was prosecutors and judges. Now it’s the press.”

Zamora’s newspaper, elPeriódico, was founded in 1996 on the heels of the peace process that ended the Central American country’s 36-year civil war. As one of the country’s leading independent publications, elPeriódico is known for exposing decades of corruption in the Guatemalan government and human rights abuses by the military.

His arrest comes amid a sweeping crackdown on government protests.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei over allegations that he accepted bribes from Russian businessmen to secure a dock at one of the country’s main ports last year. The prosecutor who led the investigation was fired by Guatemala’s Attorney General, María Consuelo Porras.

In the past year, roughly two dozen prosecutors, judges and magistrates have fled into exile for fear of government prosecution for their anti-corruption crusades.

The Biden administration has approved Guatemalan officials. In May, State Department spokesman Ned Price criticized Giamattei’s decision to keep Porras in her position, saying it was “a step backwards for Guatemala’s democracy, transparency and the rule of law.”

Rap. Norma Torres, D-Calif. and Jim McGovern, D-Mass. Several US lawmakers expressed their concern about Zamora’s arrest.

“Judiciary is already dead, is there a free press anymore?” McGovern tweeted.

The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Guatemalan authorities to “immediately” release Zamora and drop any criminal charges against him. In a statement on Saturday.

“Judicial persecution against journalists is a form of intimidation, and the authorities in Guatemala need to end their campaign of intimidation and intimidation of the press,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Gypsy Guillen Kaiser.

Zamora is also the recipient of several accolades, including the 2021 King of Spain International Journalism Award and Columbia University’s Maria Moores Cabot Prize – the oldest international award in the field of journalism.

Contributing by Rebecca Morin, Reuters

Guatemalan journalists protest against the arrest of Jose Ruben Zamora, president of the newspaper El Periodico, outside the Justice Palace in Guatemala City, July 30, 2022.

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