14ymedio, Havana, 18 April 2020 — After a two-hour interrogation, the independent journalist Mónica Baró was fined 3,000 pesos under the rule of Decree Law 370 that regulates the use of the internet in Cuba. The reporter was summoned despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the authorities’ call for Cubans not to leave their homes.
The fine is called for in Article 68 subsection (i) of the decree, which punishes “disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to social interest, morality, good customs and the integrity of the people.”
In statements to 14ymedio Mónica Baró said that for her “it is a tremendously vague, imprecise paragraph, and it lends itself, as recent events have shown, to violating the fundamental freedoms of people, whether or not they are journalists, but above all, that of journalists.”
The reporter for the magazine El Estornudo (The Sneeze), who has collaborated with other media such as Periodismo de Barrio, believes that it is also a violation of privacy. “A profile on Facebook is highly personal, although its content is often public,” she said.
In a post that she published on her networks on leaving the police unit where he was questioned, Baró said that the officers showed her as evidence of her “crime” a folder with dozens of sheets printed with captures of her Facebook posts published over the course of several months.
The reporter didn’t accept the accusation and replied that she was “willing to assume the consequences” of her actions from the moment she decided to become an independent journalist.
“Major Ernesto expected me to say that I was in error, but I did not meet his expectations. Then he sent for two inspectors from the Ministry of Communications, who appeared and immediately spoke to me of Decree Law 370, in particular of subsection ( i) of Article 68,” she added.
The young journalist made clear her disagreement with the fine imposed on her. “I did not want to sign it, nor do I intend to pay it. They explained to me that if I did not pay it, it doubled, tripled, and that the thing could end up in prosecution.”
The officer who identified himself as Major Ernesto told her that “soon” they would see each other again. Baró insisted that she is “prepared for everything” but fears that the next step for the authorities is to go to her home and confiscate her work equipment, a measure that is part of the sanctions established by Decree Law 370.
“And no, I will not stop saying or writing what I think because I receive threats or attempts at intimidation. They will not shut me up. I simply cannot stop being who I am and I am a free woman journalist. Free, first of all.”
Baró Sánchez won the 2019 Gabo Prize in the Text category for the report “The blood was never yellow” and in which she reported on lead poisoning in a community in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, in the province of Havana.
Independent journalist Niober García Fournier also received a fine of 3,000 pesos this week, in Guantánamo, also under Decree Law 370 and after being questioned.
In the midst of the crisis that Cuba and the world are experiencing due to Covid-9, several journalists have been summoned to be questioned by State Security, in a clear violation of the measures announced by the Government, which asks everyone not to go into the street to avoid contagion.
Decree Law 370 establishes extensive control by the Government over the internet. It does this by regulating the use of new technologies, greater supervision over wireless networks, and strict limits on the publication of online content. Violations of these regulations are sanctioned with fines and confiscation of the equipment and means used to published the offending materials.
The entry into force of this decree raised a broad condemnation by international organizations related to freedom of expression, in addition to numerous criticisms from activists and independent journalists, which have created their own news spaces thanks to new technologies.
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