Freedom of the Press Continues To Deteriorate in Cuba Due to High Level of Repression

Independent journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, being repressed by State Security agents, in a 2020 image. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Mexico City, November 10, 2023 — Freedoms of press and expression “continued to deteriorate” in Cuba, where in recent months multiple independent journalists have been arrested, harassed and assaulted, denounces the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).

According to a preliminary report scheduled to be approved this Sunday by the Press Freedom Commission of this organization in its biannual assembly, the ecosystem of the island’s unofficial media continues to suffer a “high level of repression.”

This materializes, the text details, through “arbitrary detentions,” “house arrests,” “surveillance” and “harassment through subpoenas,” pointing out these as “the most common forms of repression against independent journalism.”

The document highlights the situation of Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca and Jorge Bello, independent journalists who have been imprisoned for two years.

Valle Roca was sentenced to five years in prison for the crime of continued enemy propaganda, and his health problems are not being properly addressed. Bello is serving 15 years in prison for contempt, after participating in the anti-government protests of 11 July 2021.

The organization also includes four cases of Cubans in prison “for recording or broadcasting live protests” and four house arrests or detentions

The organization also includes four cases of Cubans in prison “for recording or broadcasting live protests” and four house arrests or detentions, including those of Camila Acosta – from Cubanet – and Henry Constantín, director of the independent media La Hora de Cuba and regional vice president of the IAPA.

The text also records the “detentions for hours or days” of 22 people – including journalists (Yoani Sánchez*, Reinaldo Escobar*), writers (Jorge Fernández Era) and intellectuals (Alina Bárbara López) – and the “physical and psychological assaults” on five individuals, including those suffered by YouTuber Yoandi Montiel, known as El Gato de Cuba.

The report also highlights that Internet cuts to independent journalists continue to be used with “profusion” by State Security and cites more than thirty affected professionals.

The report also documents a dozen Cuban journalists who are prohibited from leaving the country “for exclusively political reasons,” including Acosta, Escobar and Constantín.

The IAPA mentions in its file on Cuba the serious crisis in which the country has been immersed for more than two years: “In this period the precarious living conditions were accentuated.”

It specifically quoted “increasing inflation,” which “continues to pulverize the value of state wages and pensions,” the “chaos” in public health, the increase in public transport prices due to the lack of fuel, frequent blackouts and the lack of running water in some municipalities.

In Venezuela, “for many years,” the “constant and systematic regime of censorship” that “generates self-censorship among the media” is maintained

Similarly, the IAPA affirmed that in Venezuela, “for many years,” the “constant and systematic regime of censorship” that “generates self-censorship among the independent media” is maintained.

According to a preliminary report, in Venezuela, “at least two stations go off the air every month” by order of the State regulatory body, the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), to whose “discretionary opinion” television and radio media are subject.

It points out that “Conatel also continued to censor and close spaces of the independent print media that were forced to migrate to web platforms,” where blocks are also recorded.

“Journalists are besieged by the regime and are harassed and threatened when they try to cover social protests or report irregularities and corruption,” the IAPA said.

The document mentions some violations of press freedom that have taken place so far in 2023 and cites a report from the Institute of Press and Society (IPYS) of Venezuela, which revealed that between May and August of this year there were 117 violations of freedom of expression that affected 68 press workers.

As a positive aspect, the IAPA highlighted the release of journalist Roland Carreño, arrested since October 2020 and released on October 18, as part of a new negotiation between the Government and the opposition.

However, it said that the journalist “was a victim of forced disappearance, and on six occasions humanitarian measures were requested for health problems.” In addition, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council declared his detention arbitrary and “warned that incarceration is a systematic practice in the country.”

The report exposes at least 22 specific cases of press persecution, including the closure of stations and news spaces within them, the intimidation of journalists and media by public officials and the blocking of digital portals.

The IAPA, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas, is made up of more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere.

*Translator’s note: Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar are the creators and publishers of 14ymedio.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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