Cuban Independent Media ‘El Toque’ Describes the Pressures on its Journalists as ‘Bullying and Psychological Torture’

According to the coordinating team, headed by José Jasán Nieves, ’El Toque’ has lost 16 journalists since the beginning of September. (Facebook/El Toque)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 September 2022 — The directors of the digital platform El Toque denounced, this Friday, new pressures from State Security against their team on the island. The public resignation of Wimar Verdecia and Iran Hernández, director and illustrator, respectively, of  Xel2 graphic humor supplement  led to the shutting down of this feature, which has been published since 2019 and already has had 190 issues.

With the resignation of both artists, there are now 16 members of El Toque whom State Security has forced to abandon their work since the beginning of September, through a “script of interrogations and blackmail.” This was reported by the directors of the newspaper in an article bemoaning the “sickly insistence” of the Cuban political police to obtain “confessions” on video from the journalists.

The public statements of those involved, filmed in “protocol houses of the Ministry of the Interior,” have been a characteristic of this raid against independent journalism, which José Jasán Nieves, director of El Toque, has defined as “psychological harassment and torture.”

In these recordings, State Security indicates to journalists that they must “’confirm” the central ideas of a fallacy, which is that the publication is financed by opposition organizations, and “this mercenary entity” proposed the destabilization of the Cuban government.

According to Nieves, such videos will be part of a “propagandistic attack” plan, which will serve to discredit not only the reporters, but also the general project of El Toque.

“It’s very obvious that they’re preparing to use manipulated videos, taken out of context, and statements obtained under pressure, to ’build’ one of those ’complaints’ presented as ’reasons’ of a country to ’defend itself,’” the team of coordinators points out in the article, alluding to television spaces such as Hacemos Cuba, Con filo and Razones de Cuba, which have also carried out constant attacks against this newspaper.

The directors regretted the “closure of one of the most challenging creative experiences we have ever experienced,” and recalled that Xel2 took care, during its activity, to explore the ups and downs of Cuban citizens and their competition with the Government. They also promised the management of a new graphic humor project that “continues the commitment to political satire.”

The campaign against independent journalism, which has always been a priority for Cuban State Security, has spread more strongly since the protests of July 11 of last year and especially after the wave of popular demonstrations against the blackouts that the Island has experienced.

Arbitrary Internet cuts, regulations to prevent travel and constant harassment of journalists and their families have been increasing in recent months.

This Friday, activist Raúl Soublett López, founder of the Afro-Cuban Alliance, was forced to close his project, “In defense of the rights of AfroLGBTIQ+ people,” active since 2017, to concentrate on taking care of his “physical and mental health.” The same thing happened with journalist Jancel Moreno, forced to cancel his Dame la mano [Give me your hand] project and declare that he had not been working “actively” for any independent media for more than a year.

For their part, some human rights organizations have spoken out against the hunt for independent reporters. In an article published this Friday, Cubalex states that “public statements of resignations are not spontaneous,” and that they therefore violate the Cuban Criminal Code itself.

According to this legislative body, “the Cuban authorities commit the crimes of abuse of authority and regulated torture,” since they “cause mental suffering, intimidate and coerce journalists in order to obtain a confession.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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