Cuba: Authorities Step Up Harassment Of Independent News Centre
Written by: Reporters Without Borders
July 2, 2011
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The Cuban authorities are waging a campaign to intimidate Hablemos
Press, a Havana-based independent news centre, presumably because of its
criticism of the government. In the past three months, 14 of its
correspondents have been threatened and 10 have been briefly detained on
at least one occasion.
According to Hablemos Press director Roberto Jesús Guerra Pérez, the
situation began to deteriorate during the 6th Congress of the Cuban
Communist party in April, when new economic and social measures were
announced. Security agents banned journalists from leaving home
throughout the congress, Guerra said.
The hounding of Hablemos Press is typical of the plight of independent
journalists in Cuba, where civil liberties are universally flouted. A
new crackdown has been launched on anyone trying to express dissident
views. Journalists are being subject to repeated arrests and brief
spells in detention with the aim of reducing them to silence.
"The measures announced during the 6th Congress must be accompanied by
an opening-up on human rights and democracy issues," Reporters Without
Borders said. "We call for the legalization of independent media that
are not controlled by the state, an end to the criminalization of
dissident views, access for all Cubans to an unfiltered Internet and the
repeal of all laws that restrict media freedom. The government must also
honour its international obligations by ratifying the two UN conventions
on civil and political rights that it signed in 2008."
"This is a psychological war," Guerra said, referring to the harassment
of journalists. "They are trying to silence us by means of death
threats, incitement to leave the country with our families, and repeated
detention and interrogation, often lasting more than four hours at a
According to a report that Guerra provided to Reporters Without Borders,
the legal basis on which many independent journalists have been arrested
and detained is a provision of Law 88 on the Protection of National
Independence and the Cuban Economy, also known as the "gag law." Under
this provision, anyone who is deemed to have caused serious harm to the
economy by cooperating with foreign media can be sentenced to two to
eight years in prison. Many journalists were arrested under the same
provision during the "Black Spring" of 2003.
Calixto Ramos Martínez Arias, who has been a Hablemos Press
correspondent since 2009, was arrested twice in May. The second time he
was arrested, on 16 May, he spent 75 hours in police custody on the
orders of a state security official, although no grounds were given.
After destroying his ID card, the state security official said he would
shoot Martínez in the head the next time he saw him in the police
station. Martínez was repeatedly deported from Havana to Camaguey in
2010 because of his journalistic work.
Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, the Hablemos Press correspondent in
Camagüey, was physically attacked by state security agents while
covering a demonstration organized by the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
Human Rights Union in 3 June, suffering bruising to the ribs and cuts to
the face and body. He was then held for eight hour in a state security
unit, where he received no medical treatment. He says he was subjected
to "psychological torture and systematic mistreatment."
Carlos Ríos Otero and Sandra Guerra have been threatened by both state
security agents and members of the national police in Havana. Ríos has
been arrested twice. Guerra was detained for more than 48 hours in her
home by a total of 20 agents. Stones were thrown at the home of Jaime
Leygonier Fernández after he wrote an article that was very critical of
Yoandris Gutiérrez Vargas, Enyor Díaz Allen and Raul Alas Márquez have
all been detained twice. Gutiérrez was arrested on 17 and 22 June while
covering dissident Jorge Cervantes' hunger strike in Santiago de Cuba.
Díaz was arrested in Guantánamo, where he was also physically attacked
by government supporters during the 6th Congress. Alas was arrested in
Cielo de Avila.
Magaly Norvis Otero Suárez, a journalist who works for both Hablemos
Press and Miami-based Radio Martí, was insulted on 7 June, She also
keeps a blog in which she reports arbitrary arrests and other human
Four prisoners – Alexander Suárez Torres, Carlos Amir Cárdenas Cartava,
Jorge Félix Otero Morales and Ramón Arias Acosta – suffered a
deterioration in prison conditions after providing Hablemos Press with
information. Suárez and Cárdenas were transferred from Havana to prisons
in Camagüey. Otero and Arias were confined to punishment cells.
Finally, the dissident cyber-journalist Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, was
detained yet again on 27 May and was held for 12 hours at the provincial
police operations headquarters along with 11 other dissidents.
The Cuban people are still denied the right to receive and impart
information and several journalists have been forced to leave the
country. On World Refugee Day on 20 June, Reporters Without Borders paid
tribute to those journalists who, after being forced to flee their
country, continue to work as journalists and thereby defy those who
tried to silence them.
In this report, entitled "Forced to flee but not silenced – exile media
fight on," Reporters Without Borders interviewed refugee journalists
from all parts of the world, including Cuba, with the aim of helping to
make their voices heard.
About the author:
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders defends journalists and media assistants
imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job and exposes the
mistreatment and torture of them in many countries.