Towards a new Black Spring in Cuba?
Reporters without Borders have expressed their concern for the situation of aggression against Cuban journalists, arbitrary sentences, death threats and barriers to access registered information over the last few days. The press agency and organization for the defense of freedom of expression Hablemos Press has been the target of the hostility of the Department of State Security.
Its founder, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, was a victim of a violent aggression perpetrated by an agent of the National Revolutionary Police on June 11th in Havana.
His wife, Magaly Norvis Otero Suárez, correspondent of Hablemos Press, indicated that she is presently confined to her home without the ability to walk, having suffered an injury to her knee and a broken septum.
Four days earlier, Raul Ramirez Puig, Hablemos Press correspondent in Mayabeque province, was threatened from a vehicle whose occupants warned him that “anything” might happen to him.
The arbitrary detention of journalists is also occurring very frequently on the island. Mario Hechavarria Driggs, who is also a collaborator with the Centre of Information for Hablemos Press, was detained by agents of the Department of State Security on June 8th.
Yeander Farres Delgado, journalism student, was held for questioning while taking pictures of the Havana Capitol Building, headquarters of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. He was released five hours later.
“Despite the apparent political opening of the Castro regime, the methods used by the authorities to silence dissident journalists are every time more brutal,” said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders. “Since the last journalist detained during the ’Black Spring’ was released, in 2011, we are witnessing a reinforcement of the repression,” he added.
Hablemos Press denounced, this past June 11, the multiple death threats they have received in the last two months. Journalist Magaly Norvis Otero Suarez received several calls to the newsroom of Hablemos Press. Later, on June 12, she was cited by Department of State Security agents, who pressed her to change the tone of the articles she posts in the information center, which displease the Castro regime.
The Cuban authorities — via the state-owned telecommunications company Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) — have even blocked the mobile phones of Roberto de Jesus Guerra, Magaly Novis Otero Suarez, and their colleague Arian Guerra (they were disconnected from the island’s sole network), to prevent them from communicating with each other.
“What is happening with the right to information if Havana suppresses telephone communication at will, while the use of the Internet is so limited on the island?” asks Camille Soulier, head of the Americas division of Reporters Without Borders. “We ask the Cuban state that it reestablish without delay the telephone line of the Hablemos Press journalists.”
Reporters Without Borders also laments the detention conditions of independent journalist Juliet Michelena Diaz, held April 7 in Havana and accused initially of “threats against a neighbor in Centro Habana” and later of “attempt” (the charges against her changed within a week). Her trial is still pending.
Also imprisoned is Yoenni de Jesus Guerra Garcia, Yayabo Press journalist, detained in October of 2013 and condemned in March of 2014 to seven years in jail. The blogger Angel Santiesteban-Prats, jailed since February 28, 2013 on trumped-up charges, is among the 100 “heroes of information” published by Reporters Without Borders.
Cuba is in last place among the countries of the Americas – and 170 out of 180 countries worldwide – in Reporters Without Borders’ current “Freedom of the Press” tally. Read more here.
Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy. Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
16 June 2014