Guatemala: Authorities Must Stop Legal Harassment of Journalists

March 9, 2023: The court order to investigate nine elPeriódico journalists for alleged disinformation, sets a serious precedent for freedom of expression in Guatemala and is evidence of systematic persecution of the press by the authorities, PEN International said today.

On  February 28, 2023, Judge Jimi Bremer, at the request of prosecutor Cinthya Monterroso of the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office, ordered an investigation into elPeriódico newspaper journalists as part of a new criminal case against journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, arrested on July 29, 2022 on trumped-up charges of money laundering, blackmail, influence peddling and illicit association for money laundering.

‘The legal and judicial harassment of journalists is a serious attempt by the government of Alejandro Giammatei to erode the ability and responsibility of the press to inform society and to play a central role in sustaining and developing democracies. Maliciously prosecuting journalists, including through gagging orders, rather than protecting them, is evidence of a systematic state policy aimed at silencing independent journalism’, said Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International.

During the initial hearing on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, at which new charges were brought against Zamora for “conspiracy to obstruct justice”, Cinthya Monterroso called for a criminal investigation of nine columnists and journalists: Edgar Gutiérrez (political analyst and foreign minister in 2001), Gonzalo Marroquín Godoy (columnist for elPeriódico), Julia Corado (director of elPeriódico), Manfredo Marroquín (columnist and director of Acción Ciudadana, the Guatemala chapter of Transparency International), and journalists Gerson Ortiz, Cristian Véliz, Alexander Valdez, Rony Ríos and Denis Aguilar.

Zamora Marroquín is a renowned Guatemalan journalist, founder and director of elPeriódico and one of the most outspoken critics of the Guatemalan government headed by President Alejandro Giammattei. Along with his colleagues at elPeriódico, Zamora has focused on investigating and exposing corruption in the public administration and the private sector.

On March 1, 2023, elPeriódico published a statement entitled “They will not silence us“, affirming that “Guatemalan democracy is going through one of its most difficult, dark and repressive moments of the last four decades”. Following the arrest of  Zamora Marroquín on July 29, 2022, the newspaper’s bank accounts were blocked, forcing it to suspend print publication and lay off 80% of its staff. elPeriódico has been publishing investigations into allegations of corruption by Guatemala’s political class for two decades. As a result, the newspaper has faced threats, financial pressure and abusive legal action. It aims to resume its print publication on May 2, 2023.

‘PEN Guatemala is concerned to witness the undermining of the right to freedom of expression, as embedded in the Guatemalan Constitution, Article 35 of which states that ‘it is a constitutional right that may not be restricted by any law or governmental provision’. We call for respect of the rule of law, based on the Constitution itself, which is the legal foundation that authorities and government officials must ensure and respect without distinction, said Karla Olascoaga’, President of the Guatemalan PEN Centre.

PEN International calls on the Guatemalan authorities to immediately stop the legal and judicial harassment of journalists, to allow them to work freely and protected them from violence or intimidation. Further, we renew our call for Zamora Marroquín to be released immediately and unconditionally.

For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Head of The Americas Region, at PEN International, email:

Photo: José Rubén Zamora Marroquín. Credit: elPeriódico. 2019