GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – A Guatemalan judge ordered the investigation on Tuesday of nine journalists from a newspaper whose president has already been jailed on various charges since last year.
Judge Jimi Bremer said that to find out whether the journalists from El Periodico newspaper were maliciously pursuing prosecutors, judges and other members of Guatemala’s justice system, thereby opening themselves up to criminal charges, they should be investigated.
Top prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso had argued that El Periodico published stories about complaints, disciplinary processes and questioned decisions by justice officials, including herself.
It was the government’s latest move against the newspaper known for hard-hitting investigations of public officials and government wrongdoing led by José Rubén Zamora.
In December, a judge ordered that Zamora stand trial on charges of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Bremer also added a new case of alleged obstruction of justice.
President of the Guatemalan Association of Journalists Mario Recinos said “we’re seeing a deterioration in rights. The Constitution protects freedom of the press and opinion”.
He said his organisation was on alert because “this is a reflection of what happens in countries like Nicaragua”.
Nicaragua’s authoritarian government has shuttered independent press outlets and driven journalists into exile.
The United States (US) government has sharply criticised the weakening of anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala under President Alejandro Giammattei and last year cancelled the US visa of Monterroso’s predecessor Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras.