Dozens of Journalist Sign Statement Demanding Freedom of the Press in Cuba

The statement comes at a time when the independent press perceives an increase in repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2019 —  More than fifty journalists, editors and professors have joined in a statement that denounces violations of press freedom in Cuba and demands a framework of respect for those who work in the independent information sector. “We cannot allow another Black Spring to occur as in 2003,” the signatories of the text warn.

The document denounces an increase in “physical, legal and psychological repression” against people linked to non-governmental media. “Arbitrary detentions and imprisonment, raids and searches of private homes, seizure and confiscation of equipment, interrogations, prohibitions on leaving the country,” are some of the reprisals suffered by reporters.

In addition to these obstacles, there are “the sieges around homes to prevent news coverage, defamation campaigns, physical and digital harassment, hacking of personal accounts, blocking and cyber attacks against digital sites, threats of imprisonment, intimidation of family members and social stigmatization,” says the text.

The publication of the letter and the diversity of the signatories marks a historical point in the independent press on the Island, frequently distanced from each other by thematic or ideological differences. However, this time the signatories represent a wide variety of media, from cultural or technological to the more political.

“The argument usually made by the representatives of the Government and the Party to justify the restrictions of civil and political liberties… has been based on the idea that Cuba is a nation at war with the United States,” the signatories note with regret. “The mentality that has governed our system has responded more to military logic than to a democratic one,” they add.

The text is published in a context of growing official hostility towards the independent press, which this September has been marked by the conviction and imprisonment of journalist Roberto Quiñones, a case that “urges us to stay alert,” warns the document.

Nor does the text spare criticisms of an official press that is nothing more than an organ of the Party. “The agendas and productive routines of state media are permeated by political power and are frequently intervened in by its officials, which constitutes an inexhaustible source of conflicts of interest in which the balance always leans in favor of the interests of the political power and not the interests of society.”

“Our decision to exercise journalism independently reflects our understanding of it as not only as a human right but also as a professional duty. We do not believe that we can produce a rigorous journalism, committed to Cuban society and the search for truth, within the margins of a partisan state press model.”

The text recalls the repressive coup of March 2003, which came to be known as the Black Spring, “when the Cuban State arrested 75 citizens, including independent journalists and human rights defenders, and imposed sentences of up to 20 years of deprivation of liberty.” A danger that could be repeated because “the legal instruments that were used to judge them are still valid.”

Journalists consider that “the Law on the Reaffirmation of Cuban Dignity and Sovereignty (Law 80), and the Law on the Protection of the Independence and Economy of Cuba (Law 88), of 1996 and 1999, respectively, constitute the most serious threats” to the independent press sector on the Island “by criminalizing the exercise of human rights.”

“As long as we do not understand that the repression of journalists, bloggers and communicators has to do with society, because there are stories and approaches to the stories that the Power does not want us to know, we will not be able to implement the changes that journalism needs,” they denounce.

“When we allow a country’s story to be constructed from a single point of view, we lacerate its historical memory and, in the long term, its cultural identity.”

Those who signed the declaration demand “the cessation of repression against those who exercise freedom of the press and expression in Cuba; the elimination of legal recourses that restrict and criminalize the exercise of such freedoms; the establishment of legal guarantees to exercise them, which shall include laws on transparency and protection of sources, and the immediate release of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces.”


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