Persecution Grows Against Independent Journalism In Cuba
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 June 2017 — Independent communicators
in Cuba are victims of an escalating repression, according to a
complaint filed Monday by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH),
based in Madrid. The alarm sounded by the organization coincides with an
increase in complaints from journalists on the island as a result of the
government persecutions and obstacles they suffer when exercising their
"Last June 20 Henry Constantín and Sol Garcia, journalists for La Hora
de Cuba and contributors to 14ymedio, were not able to participate in an
event in Miami because each of them has been indicted for the alleged
crime of "'usurpation of legal capacity' [that is practicing a
profession without a license to do so] and so under Cuban law they are
not permitted to travel outside the country," OCDH reported.
According to the non-governmental organization, the Cuban government had
maintained a kind of "moratorium" with regards to repression against
independent journalists, but the strategy seems to have changed in
recent weeks with actions such as those carried out against Henry
Constantin, Sol Garcia Basulto and Manuel Alejandro Leon Velázquez.
Both Constantín and García Basulto have been expressly forbidden to
practice journalism on the island and the judicial process opened
against them has been criticized from various international forums,
including the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).
The OCDH also denounced the arrest of journalist Manuel Alejandro León
Velázquez, a contributor to Radio Martí and Diario de Cuba . Leon
returned from a trip to Spain and has been accused of "usurpation of
legal capacity, association to commit a crime and dissemination of false
news," according to the organization.
The accusations against the three communicators are based on Article 149
of the Cuban Penal Code, which punishes those who carry out "acts of a
profession for the exercise of which one is not properly qualified." If
they are tried for this offense they could face a sentence of up to one
year of deprivation of liberty.
In Cuba, all the media belong to the State, according to the
Constitution of 1976. However, the absence of a Media Law has allowed
the independent press to flourish with sites such as El Estornudo, El
Toque, Cubanet, CiberCuba, Diario de Cuba, Periodismo de Barrio, On
Cuba, among others.
Human rights lawyer and activist Laritza Diversent, who recently became
a refugee in the United States, explained to 14ymedio via telephone that
there are over 300 items within the Penal Code to crack down on dissent
and journalism on the island.
"State Security is looking for different strategies to prosecute all
types of dissidents or critics in Cuba," explained Diversent, president
of the legal group Cubalex, who went into exile after a police and State
Security operation against her.
"Both illegal economic activity and the usurpation of legal capacity are
nothing more than resources to punish any type of activism within the
Island. Legal insecurity is very high because both the criminal law and
the criminal procedure law have been designed as tools of repression,"
Independent journalist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, who was arrested last
October in Guantanamo and suffered the confiscation of his tools of the
trade while covering the recovery in Baracoa after the passage of
Hurricane Matthew, confirmed the difficulties of practicing the
profession on the island.
"We do not have a law that supports us and protects the exercise of
journalism, we are at the mercy of the arbitrariness of the
authorities," he said. On that occasion, a team of correspondents from
Periodismo de Barrio suffered the same fate as Gonzalez Vivero.
Other independent publications, such as Convivencia magazine, have been
harassed during the last year with the arrest of members of its
editorial team and threats by the authorities against its contributors.
Foreign correspondent Fernando Ravsberg has been threatened with
expulsion from the country and even with "having his teeth broken" for
the critical entries he publishes in his personal blog Cartas desde Cuba.
Last year the IAPA emphasized, however, the timid rebellion of some
official journalists against the information policy directed from the
Communist Party. Among the examples cited by the IAPA was a letter
signed by young journalists published by the Villa Clara newspaper
Vanguardia, in which they claimed their right to collaborate with other
The IAPA also recalled the case of a Radio Holguin journalist Jose
Ramirez Pantoja, expelled from the profession for five years for making
public the remarks delivered at a conference where Karina Marrón, deputy
editor of the official daily Granma, compared the country's situation to
that of the 1990s when massive protests occurred in Havana, which came
to be known as the Maleconazo.
Source: Persecution Grows Against Independent Journalism In Cuba –
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