Human rights advocates see increased threats against press in Cuba
BY: Justin Price
June 19, 2014 6:26 pm
A recent wave of governmental threats and attacks on Cuban journalists
has led to heightened concern among human rights and press freedom
Last week, Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez alleged that
on June 11 a government agent beat him as he waited outside the Czech
Republic embassy in Havana to connect to the Internet.
"An unknown man intercepted and attacked Guerra without warning,
punching and kicking him in his head and face, and leaving him with a
broken nose, as well as cuts, scrapes, and bruises all over his body,"
according to the Human Rights Foundation (HRF).
Guerra is the founder of Centro de Informacion Hablemos Press
(CIHPRESS), an online news site critical of the Cuban Government that
frequently publishes stories on the affronts its reporters encounter.
Roberto Gonzalez, a legal associate with HRF, was in contact with Guerra
following the beating.
Gonzalez told the Washington Free Beacon Guerra had gone to the police
and filed a complaint after the event.
Gonzalez said Guerra identified the man who beat him outside the embassy
as a state agent. Four others on two motorcycles showed up during the
thrashing—one urging the assailant to cease.
According to Gonzalez, the aggressor finally stopped, then told Guerra,
"This is so you know what we do to dissidents."
Guerra had received various threats of violence over the phone the day
leading up to the incident and many times before, Gonzalez said.
Because the alleged assault involves a state agent Guerra's formal
complaint to police will likely go untouched.
On the day of the assault, CIHPRESS published an article regarding three
of its journalists, including Guerra, whose phones had been blocked by
the state-owned cellular service provider ETECSA as part of a campaign
against members of the island's media who criticize the government.
Through the phone service, customers pay to load their phones with
minutes, which are frequently depleted, rendering an essential tool for
journalists very expensive, Gonzalez said.
On June 8, CIHPRESS correspondent Magaly Norvis Otero and Guerra's wife
were called to the police station in Havana where they were told
CIHPRESS must change the tone of its writings or there would be
consequences, according to HRF.
The constant threats of censorship, surveillance, imprisonment, and
physical harm among many others make being a journalist in Cuba a very
difficult job, said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator at the
Committee to Protect Journalists Americas, a press-freedom advocacy group.
Lauría said chasing stories about topics the Cuban government does not
want reported requires great courage and commitment.
Lauría has spoken with Guerra and other reporters from CIHPRESS in the
past regarding similar situations, but reaching journalists in Cuba can
be difficult, he said, because calls are frequently blocked or intercepted.
Source: Cuba Crackdown | Washington Free Beacon -