Aug 2, 2022 - Economy & Business

Guatemalan police arrest newspaper president

Photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP via Getty Images

Guatemalan police have arrested Jose Rubén Zamora, an outspoken government critic and president of the elPeriódico newspaper, prompting an international outcry from free press groups.

Why it matters: His son, Jose Carlos Zamora, a longtime Spanish media executive in the U.S., told Axios the arrest is "definitely censorship."

Details: Authorities raided the offices of elPeriódico last Friday, and arrested Zamora at his home in Guatemala City. The office raid, elPeriódico tweeted, lasted more than 16 hours.

  • Zamora is being accused of money laundering and blackmail, per Reuters, but press freedom groups say his arrest is clearly an intimidation campaign.
  • The newspaper said in a tweet Monday that its bank accounts had been seized "with the sole intention of paralyzing its finances" and "preventing it from fulfilling its labor and contractual obligations."
  • The outlet also noted that they were surprised by those actions, given that the government said Zamora's arrest had nothing to do with his work as a journalist, but rather as a businessman.

Between the lines: Various press groups around the world have called on Guatemalan authorities to release Zamora immediately and drop any charges against him.

  • In a video posted to Twitter, Zamora said he will go on a hunger strike as a sign that he rejects the prosecution.

The big picture: The arrest comes amid a growing corruption crisis in Guatemala.

  • "This government has become more and more authoritarian and repressive over the years," Jose Carlos Zamora said.
  • "Beyond the case of my father, this is just an example of the government's systematic attacks on democracy, liberty and freedom of the press. First it started persecuting activists, then it went after the prosecutors and judges overseeing high-profile corruption cases, and now it’s coming after the press."

What to watch: Around the world autocrats are taking aim at the press to consolidate power, and the environment for journalists broadly has become more dangerous.

  • More journalists are being killed outside of conflict zones as violence against the press becomes more targeted.
  • A record 12 journalists have been murdered in Mexico this year.
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