Tania Bruguera Sues Official Media for Defamation

Tania Bruguera during her “performance” during the XII Bienniel of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 18, 2018 — The artist Tania Bruguera made public this Tuesday a text in which she reports on a lawsuit she has brought against various official press outlets and against some of their most visible spokespersons.

“Tired of suffering defamation by the country’s official press outlets like Granma and Razones de Cuba (“Cuba’s Reasons,” apro-government blog) and of websites backed by the Ministry of Culture, like La Jiribilla, I have decided to bring a lawsuit against the actions of all legal and natural persons who have affected me and my family psychologically, professionally, and socially,” said Bruguera in a statement accompanying the lawsuit brought on December 11.

The artist told 14ymedio that she filed the penal lawsuit at the Old Havana municipal police station against the citizens who have signed any of the texts of those publications as is the case of Arthur González; Antonio Rodríguez Salvador; the director of the website Cubadebate, Randy Alonso Falcón; the director of La Jiribilla, Anneris Ivette Leyva; and the director of the newspaper Granma, Yailín Orta Rivera.

Bruguera claimed in her text that the campaign of defamation against her has not taken place only in media outlets, but also in executive meetings of the Ministry of Culture and of the Ministry of the Interior, of the directors of national museums and other leaders and cultural agents of the Government, with young artists, students, curators, and creators, with the objective of discrediting her.

The artist told this newspaper that after making the complaint she delivered copies of all the documentation of the legal action to the Attorney General of the Republic and the public services office of the Council of State. She also reported that in the public services office of the National Revolutionary Police they confirmed to her that the case was registered in the “national system” of complaints.

“They didn’t tell me anything about the period of time to receive a response but I asked a lawyer and she told me that it must be within 30 days,” she detailes. “What I am asking for is not economic compensation, but rather the retraction in the same media outlets where the articles originally appeared, and that they put an explanatory note on those that are on the internet,” clarified Bruguera in the text.

The artist told 14ymedio that she consulted with various lawyers on the writing of the text and that they told her that it is very possible that there are no precedents of a similar legal action to this one and that it would be the first of its kind in Cuba. “So then let it be the first of many and let it mean that, for next person who makes them uncomfortable by saying or doing what they think, the officials reflect on it better,” before defaming that person publicly, she added in her statement.

After this action Bruguera believes that other artists and citizens may be able to use the legal structures that exist in the Government for their protection against defamation.

According to the current penal code, defamation “requires the complaint of the offended party” and the crime takes place when a person, in front of a third party, “imputes to another a conduct, an act, or a characteristic against their honor, that may damage their social reputation, lower them in public opinion, or put them at risk of losing the confidence required to carry out their charge, profession, or social function.” It is sanctioned with “deprivation of liberty for three months to a year or a fine of 100 to 300 ’shares’* or both.”

The Government’s official media outlets, equally in printed form, digital, or telivision, frequently accuse leaders of the opposition, artists, journalists, and independent members of civil society of being “salaried employees of imperialism.”

“The Cuban Government cannot keep using the laws as they please, nor only to protect those who work for their political ends. The Government cannot be exempt from responsibility,” she said. Tania Bruguera supports the campaign against Decree 349 that a group of artists initiatated after it appeared published in the Official Gazette on July 10, along with a package of measures directed at limiting the work of private businesses.

The first week of this month the artist was detained in Havana along with other independent art figures, and advocates of the campaign, like Luis Manuel Otero, Yanelys Núñez, Michel Matos, and Amaury Pacheco. The arrest occurred after Bruguera, on December 7, participated in a “peaceful sit-in” in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana to demand the repeal of Decree 349. That day she was released after some hours but later, on two other occasions when she attempted to reach the scene of the protest, she was arrested by State Security officials.

Bruguera believes that it is time to be in one’s country when it is going through a moment that is “crucial for freedom of expression in Cuba and also in the world.” The artist recently declined an invitation to participate in the Bienniel of Kochi, in India. “Although, in the circumstances in which we live in Cuba today, they have made us feel that asking for your rights is a useless act, all of us as citizens must be listened to, our rights to be compensated, and to receive a response when defamed, as is anticipated in Article 63 of the current Constitution of the Republic,” said Bruguera. In her statement she expressed: “A nation only exists when the rights of its citizens are respected.”

*Translator’s note: The Cuban penal code establishes fines in terms of a number of “shares.” This is done so that, instead of having to amend every fine established in the code, the amounts can be changed in all instances in the code simply by amending the value of one “share.” 

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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