ARTICLE 19 and CUBALEX Demand the Immediate Freedom of Journalists Detained During the Protests in Cuba

Cuban activist Henry Constantin. (Twitter)

UPDATE July 20, 2021 — In follow-up to the communique that ARTICLE 19 and CUBALEX published on July 16, which stated that as of that date the following people had been detained: Henry Constantin, director of La Hora de Cuba, along with his colleagues Iris Mariño, and Niefe Rigau; Orelvys Cabrera, from Cubanet News; Pedro Luis Hernández, from the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP); and Mario Félix Ramírez, from Arbol Invertido. Today we update the situation of these jailed journalists.

At the time of this update, journalists Henry Constantin, Iris Mariño and Niefe Rigau, of La Hora de Cuba, and Orelvys Cabrera, of Cubanet News, remain jailed.

In the case of the director and the collaborators of La Hora de Cuba, ARTICLE 19 contacted Henry Constantin’s relatives, who reported that a writ of habeas corpus was filed with the Camagüey Provincial People’s Court as a result of his arrest. On July 15, the Court declared that the Habeas Corpus proceeding filed on behalf of Henry Constantin, Iris Mariño, and Niefe Rigau was invalid and consequently ordered “that they be kept in custody.”

The Court found that “the citizens . . . were arrested on July 11 as part of the disturbances caused that day by a group of people, among whom were these citizens, carrying out public disorders in the streets, behaving in an offensive and violent manner by making disrespectful demonstrations and committing aggressive acts by using sticks and stones with which they attacked the people who confronted them, and acting in preventive support it was necessary for the authorities to conduct them to the police stations to carry out various investigations, and in the specific case of the aforementioned citizens, the three were charged in Complaint 10946/2021 with the crime of aggravated public disorder . . . and they are subject to the imposition of the precautionary measure,” which implies that they will be in prison until their case is decided.

It is important to point out that since July 11, the date of their arrest, the three were detained in the Second Police Unit of Camagüey, where they were held incommunicado until the 16th, when they were transferred to the UTI, an infamous site where tortures are carried out against detainees, according to Henry’s family.

The situation of Orelvys Cabrera, a Cubanet News contributor, is similar. According to the story that his family shared with ARTICLE 19, Orelvys was detained by agents of the State Security Department on July 11, while he covering the mass demonstrations in Cárdenas, Matanzas Province. So far the authorities, using the pretext of the pandemic, have not allowed his family to see him.  Nor has his family been informed of the charges against him, and he has no defense lawyer. The only information they have is that he is under investigation by the Department of State Security.

Given these facts, ARTICLE 19 demands that the State of Cuba guarantee fair and impartial judicial processes for the detained journalists and that it investigate any indication of abuse of authority committed by officials of the Executive and Judiciary.

Mexico City / Havana, July 16, 2021 — ARTICLE 19 and Cubalex have documented the arbitrary detention of at least 11 journalists in Cuba following the citizen protests that began on July 11. At the time of this update, 5 have not been released.

Since then, we have been able to observe how the Cuban government criminalizes and attacks protesters, through the excessive and disproportionate use of force – which has resulted in an undetermined number of people injured and detained – and police operations in the homes of journalists and activists, restricting the exercise of their right to peaceful assembly, expression and demonstration, dissemination and access to information.

On July 11, Henry Constantín, Iris Mariño, Niefe Rigau and Mario Félix Ramírez were arrested in Camagüey; Maykel González, in Havana; Niober García and Rolando Rodríguez, in Guantánamo; and Orelvys Cabrera, in Matanzas. The following day, Camila Acosta Rodriguez was arrested in Havana. And, on July 15, Alberto Corzo, in Matanzas, and Pedro Luis Hernández, in Sancti Spíritus, were arrested.

Henry Constantin, director of La Hora de Cuba, along with collaborators Iris Mariño and Niefe Rigau; Orelvys Cabrera, from Cubanet News; Pedro Luis Hernández, of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP) and Mario Félix Ramírez, of Inverted Tree, are still in jail.

Some people who have been attacked already had a history of systematic harassment, such as Camila Acosta, a collaborator with the ABC of Spain and Cubanet News, who is being kept under house arrest after having been released.

An example of the constant siege against the press is the case of Iliana Hernandez, who since April of this year has been under house arrest, unable to go out to carry out journalistic or personal activities. Her situation has been replicated these days with journalists such as María Matienzo, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, Katherine Bisquet and Luz Escobar, among others. In addition, it was possible to record the digital attack on the Diario de Cuba site on July 14, which made access to the portal difficult.

Added to these attacks are the imprisonments carried out on April 30 against journalists Mary Karla Ares from Cibercuba and Esteban Rodríguez López from ADN Cuba in the context of the protests in the vicinity of the house of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was on a hunger and thirst strike at home but under a sentence of house arrest. Likewise, the journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, detained on June 15, remains deprived of his liberty.

As on other occasions, elements of the National Revolutionary Police, the Anti-Riot Brigades, and the Department of State Security have been identified as perpetrators of the attacks.

Due to this situation, ARTICLE 19 and Cubalex echo the call for dialogue that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made today for the government of Cuba to immediately release all the persons detained, address protesters’ demands through open dialogues, and respect the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and exercise freedom of opinion and expression, as well as to fully restore of access to the internet and social media platforms.

Translated by Tomás A.