Director of Guatemalan newspaper accuses police force of attempting to raid his home

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  • August 14, 2013

By Alejandro Martínez

The director of a Guatemalan newspaper accused the government of trying to enter his house on two separate occasions last week, reported Spanish news agency EFE. However, federal officials denied that the agents had the intention of entering his home or intimidating him.

José Rubén Zamora, director of elPeriódico, said that about 20 individuals - some with police uniforms, others with cameras who allegedly pretended to be journalists - appeared outside his home on Aug. 9 and 10 stating they wanted to deliver something to him.

Zamora said that on both occasions his wife prevented the men from entering the home. Officers left a patrol guarding the home, he said.

Responding to the accusation, Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla and head of the Executive Coordinating Policy Commission on Human Rights Matters (COPREDEH) Antonio Arenales Forno assured in a press conference that the officers did not intend to enter his home.

They instead said the operation was to replace the guards who have looked over Zamora's house since 2003, when several armed intelligence officers kidnapped him and his family for several hours at their home. López Bonilla said the responsibility of these precautionary measures will now pass from the Administrative and Security Affairs Agency (SAAS in Spanish) to the Interior Ministry.

“There is no type of intimidation or scare tactics against Mr. Zamora and his family members. What exists on behalf of Mr. Zamora is a manipulation of the facts in order to create a sense of victimization," said the COPREDEH in a press release.

However, Zamora said that the operation was not a normal administrative procedure, which he described as "disproportionate."

"It was exactly the modus operandi of the commando that in 2003 raided our house and kidnapped my family," Zamora said in a letter obtained by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas responding to the COPREDEH's statement. "The normal thing to do would be for them to call me to set a date and have an official explain to me the changes."

Zamora also said that his newspaper continues to be the target of an economic boycott and daily cyberattacks to its website, which he has stated are coming from the government.

Zamora is the founder of the daily Siglo Veintiuno that helped prevent the self-coup of then President Jorge Elias Serrano. For his work and harsh criticism against the country's government, he has been the target of kidnappings, death threats and attacks.

In 2003, military counterintelligence agents simulated his execution and kidnapped him at his home along with his wife and three children, with guns pointed at them. Zamora's home has been guarded since then, when the Inter-American Commission ordered the Guatemalan government to provide precautionary measures for the journalist.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.