(NEW YORK)– PEN America today condemned Guatemalan authorities’ arrest of the journalist and elPeriódico President José Rubén Zamora on politically motivated charges and called for his immediate release from prison. Zamora was arrested last Friday and began a hunger strike the following day. His preliminary court hearing scheduled for Monday was suspended on procedural grounds. 

“The arrest of José Rubén Zamora is clearly politically motivated and an egregious effort to  undermine press freedom, as well as an unconscionable attempt by the Guatemalan government to silence journalists through intimidation,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center at PEN America. “The Guatemalan government should immediately release Zamora and drop all charges against him.”

Authorities raided the offices of the newspaper and detained Zamora on charges including money laundering, blackmail and influence peddling. The staff of elPeriódico denounced his detention as retaliation for the publication’s recent reporting on President Alejandro Giammettei and Attorney General María Consuelo Porras. Zamora referred to the charges against him as a conspiracy, and attributed his arrest to “political persecution.”

Zamora’s arrest comes amidst growing political repression in Guatemala, where journalists who have investigated government corruption and human rights violations have been increasingly targeted with aggression and criminal prosecution. At least five other Guatemalan journalists from different media outlets are in exile. In addition, arrest warrants have been issued against more than a dozen former prosecutors, judges, and human rights activists by the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057