Guatemala journalists warn free press under threat

Journalists in Guatemala took to the streets Saturday to warn that free speech was under threat in the Central American country after a judge opened an inquiry into several reporters.

In a bold challenge to the government, protesters waved banners reading "We will not be silenced," and "Without journalism, there is no democracy."

The protests followed a judge's decision to investigate journalists and columnists for the investigative newspaper El Periodico, which has published reports on state corruption.

On Tuesday, the judge opened a second criminal proceeding against the founder of that outlet, Jose Ruben Zamora, for conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The indictment alleges that he tried to stop a money-laundering investigation against him in 2021.

Zamora, who has won several international press awards for his paper's investigative journalism, has already spent eight months in pre-trial detention.

At the Tuesday hearing, the judge accepted a prosecutor's request that eight other members of Zamora's staff also be investigated.

That sparked a wave of outrage at the local and international level.

On Thursday, the government of US President Joe Biden expressed its concern about the investigations.

"We urge the Guatemalan justice system to reject the criminalization of independent journalists and support independent journalism," said a statement from the State Department.