Journalists face arrest, intimidation during Party Congress
New York, April 20, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is
alarmed by a string of recent arrests of journalists from the
Havana-based news outlet Centro de Información Hablemos Press,
preventing them from reporting on the Communist Party Congress held in
Havana this week. CPJ called on the Cuban government to cease its
persistent harassment of independent journalists and allow them to
In the past three weeks, at least 10 correspondents from Hablemos Press,
known for its reporting on human rights and opposition activities, have
been detained in police stations, put under house arrest or threatened
with arrest. One journalist, Enyor Díaz Allen, was assaulted by
government supporters and then held by police for four days. The arrests
coincide with the Sixth Communist Party Congress, the first in 14 years,
which began in Havana on Saturday.
"This spike in short-term arrests of journalists during the Communist
Party Congress is evidence of the Cuban government's unchanged attitude
toward the independent press, despite the releases of imprisoned
journalists in recent months," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program
coordinator for the Americas. "We call on Cuban officials to stop
detaining and harassing journalists."
Despite the landmark release this month of Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet
Hernández, the last journalist jailed in Cuba, CPJ and local human
rights organizations have observed an increase in instances of
low-intensity persecution--short-term detentions, house arrests, smear
campaigns, and intimidation--of members of Cuba's independent press.
Hablemos Press director Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez told CPJ in an
interview Tuesday that the timing of the arrests was obvious. "The
regime is afraid that there will be a popular uprising during the Party
Congress and wants to prevent journalists from reporting on what's going
on," Guerra said.
According to CPJ research, 10 journalists from Hablemos Press have faced
arrest and intimidation in the past three weeks:
--Guantánamo correspondent Enyor Díaz Allen, 28, was arrested Friday,
along with pro-democracy activist Yoandris Beltrán Gamboa, and held
until Tuesday afternoon, Díaz told CPJ. As he was walking Friday
evening, two unidentified men approached Díaz shouting pro-Castro
slogans and attacked him. Díaz defended himself but sustained a
fractured arm and wounds requiring stitches on his head. About 20
minutes into the attack, police agents arrived and broke up the fight.
The police took Díaz to the hospital. After Díaz's wounds were treated,
state security agents took him to the Parque 24 police station and held
him for four days. Díaz was charged with minor assault, and his
attackers walked free, Guerra said.
Díaz has reported on police abuses, education issues, and opposition
activities in Guantánamo province and is also a member of the youth
democracy movement. According to Guerra, a common tactic used by Cuban
authorities to intimidate critics is have government supporters attack
dissidents who are later arrested. Díaz told CPJ that he believes the
attack was related to his reporting.
--Raúl Arias Márquez and Elier Muir Ávila, correspondents in Morón and
Ciego de Ávila provinces, were detained and threatened on April 5 and
again on April 6 by police and state security agents at Márquez's home,
where the journalists frequently meet. Both have been working for
Hablemos Press for about two months and had reported on a student brawl
that left two dead.
--On March 31, Hablemos Press correspondent Idalberto Acuña Carabeo was
arrested at his home in Havana by state security agents demanding he
hand over photos he took while covering a labor protest hours before.
When Acuña refused to comply, he was taken to a local police station,
interrogated and threatened for 24 hours, Hablemos Press reported.
--Luis Roberto Arcia Rodríguez, Hablemos Press correspondent in
Mayabeque province, was put under house arrest in his home in San Jose
de las Lajas on April 16 and held there for 12 hours to prevent him from
traveling to Havana to meet with other journalists during the communist
congress, Guerra said. According to Guerra, eight state security and
police agents prevented the reporter from leaving his home.
--Sandra Guerra Pérez, Hablemos Press correspondent in Melena del Sur,
was put under house arrest by more than 20 police and security agents on
April 16 who blocked her from leaving her house until the evening of
April 18. She had been reporting on a series of sugar cane field fires
in the area as well as on the conversion of abandoned schools in the
countryside to prisons. According to Roberto Guerra, the house arrest
was intended to keep Sandra Guerra from traveling to Havana during the
--On April 15, two state security agents appeared at Hablemos Press's
headquarters in central Havana and warned four journalists including
Roberto Guerra that they would be arrested if they left their homes
during the Party Congress. Guerra was also warned that he could face
imprisonment for the videos that he has posted on Hablemos Press's Web
site that show victims of official repression.
April 20, 2011 5:18 PM ET