Rafael Curruchiche, head of the Guatemalan office for the fight against impunity, claims Mr. Zamora’s arrest “has no relation to his status as a journalist” but rather “his status as a businessman”. Mr. Curruchiche presented no evidence to support this dubious assertion. Guatemalan justice has not yet provided either: Mr. Zamora’s appearance before a judge was canceled on Monday, apparently because his file was not available.
It is exactly this kind of non-transparency that Mr. Zamora has spent his career trying to combat and for which he has been brutally targeted before. Since its creation in 1996, El Periódico has become famous for publishing investigations into the Guatemalan government, including allegations of corruption in the administration of President Alejandro Giammattei. Mr. Zamora has won numerous international awards for his fight against censorship and his defense of press freedom. It’s a job he does at the risk of his life: in 2003, gang members held Mr. Zamora hostage in his own home and beat his sons. In 2008, Mr. Zamora was drugged, kidnapped, robbed, beaten and left for dead.
Mr. Zamora’s arrest is just the most recent and brazen example of the Guatemalan government’s attacks on press freedom. Giammattei’s administration has “targeted the media with belligerent rhetoric and false accusations”, according to Human Rights Watch, while government investigations into threats, harassment and killings of journalists come to nothing. Several senior Guatemalan officials, including Mr. Curruchiche, are on the State Department’s list of “corrupt and undemocratic actors” in Central America for obstructing investigations into government corruption. The Guatemalan government has arrested numerous anti-corruption prosecutors and judges. With the arrest of Mr. Zamora, it sends the unacceptable message that journalists are next.
‘Let me die if necessary, but let justice be done,’ Mr Zamora said said in a prison video tweeted on Saturday. He is on a hunger strike to protest his persecution, once again demonstrating his courage. If Guatemala is to retain any semblance of democratic legitimacy, Mr. Zamora must be freed and his charges dropped. For so long, on so many occasions, he has spoken out against the Guatemalan government. Now the world must speak for Mr. Zamora.