14ymedio, Havana, 24 October 2016 – A Cuban State Security operation has been directed, so far in October, against different independent journalists who cooperate with the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), according to Monday’s press release from that organization.
These operations have resulted in the arrests of nine journalists, raids of their homes, and confiscation of the tools of their trade. Victims say they have used physical violence and verbal threats.
The journalist Dianelys Rodriguez, director of the media Panorama Pinareño, denounced that last Friday, 21 October, his house was searched without a warrant. The official in charge, identified as Lt. Col. Jesús Ramón Morel, head of the Department of Confrontation of Pinar del Rio Counter-Intelligence, with the help of two other officers, forcefully dragged Rodriguez and covered her mouth so she could not protest, according to the journalist. Finally, she was taken to the police station where she was held for five hours. They prepared a warning letter and threatened her with incarceration if she continued her work.
Four other journalists’ were also victims of raids on their homes and confiscation of the tools of their trade. The preliminary balance sheet, according to the ICLEP members affected, was the confiscation of five printers, two laptops, a video-camera with a tripod, six cameras, three cellphones and other auxiliary devices.
Last Friday, Ricardo Fernandez, Panorama Pinareño’s editor, was summoned to the Pinar del Rio Technical Office, where he was threatened with going to prison and “assured that ICLEP would disappear.” Previously, the political police had raided his home, confiscating a laptop and cellphone.
Raul Velaquez, ICLEP executive director, was arrested while investigating what happened to these journalists. On this occasion, they took Raul Velaquez’s cellphone, gave him an official warning and threatened that he would be prosecuted if he returned to visit the province.
ICLEP’s legal director, Raul L. Risco Perez and journalist Claudia Cristina Ortega were summoned and threatened with jail. In the east of the country, Leovanis Correa Moroso, director of Santiaguera Voz, was “arrested, handcuffed and beaten in the face” and then remained “under arrest for three days” and also was threatened with prison if he “continued working as a citizen journalist.”
In the municipality of Jatibonico in the province of Sancti Spiritus, Osmany Borroto Rodriguez, director of the Espirituano, was accused of distributing the newsletter in the streets. Shortly before, Ada Maria Lopez had been arrested in the capital’s Fellowship Park and taken to a police station because he was distributing the Habanero Amanecer (Havana Dawn) newsletter.
Another case of arbitrary detention against ICLEP journalists occurred on 14 October against a Majadero de Artemis worker, Yosdanys Blanco Hernandez. The journalist was detained in a market by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and taken to the Artemis National Police station, where he was held under arrest for 24 hours. The agents explained to him that he was arrested because there was a complaint against him.
ICLEP’s denunciation is part of the growing wave of repression by the authorities towards independent media, which in recent months has led to the arrest of many journalists.