Guatemalan newspaper closes over 'criminal persecution'
Jose Ruben Zamora (right), president of the El Periodico newspaper, which has published reports on government corruption, was arrested in July 2022 and accused of money laundering and blackmail(AFP)

An investigative newspaper in Guatemala that published reports on government corruption announced on Friday it was closing due to "criminal persecution and economic pressure."

In March, a judge opened an investigation into journalists and columnists working for El Periodico.

The newspaper's founder, Jose Ruben Zamora, who has won several international press awards for his paper's investigative journalism, was arrested last year and accused of money laundering and blackmail.

In March, a judge also opened a criminal proceeding against Zamora for conspiracy to obstruct justice.

"With great sadness, we are forced to end the daily edition of El Periodico," the newspaper said in a statement.

It had been in circulation for 27 years.

"El Periodico will cease publishing any news on May 15," the founder's son Ramon Zamora told AFP.

It was already forced to end its printed version last November.

"It has been 10 hard months of resistance. We thought we could adapt, transform and survive" with an online version," added Ramon Zamora.

"However, the persecution intensified, as did the harassment of our advertisers and maintaining our operations became more and more difficult."

The jailed newspaper founder has accused President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras of being responsible for the charges brought against the newspaper.

It is not just newspapers and journalists investigating corruption that have come under fire in Guatemala.

Since the closing of a United Nations-backed anti-corruption mission in Guatemala in 2019, human rights groups and the US government have accused Guatemala of seeking vengeance on prosecutors battling corruption and backsliding on commitments to end impunity.

In December, a Guatemalan court sentenced former anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra to four years in jail for "abuse of authority," a decision that Amnesty International described as a travesty.

© Agence France-Presse