Ley Mordaza – Gag Law
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    Authorities Step Up Harassment Of Independent News Centre – RSF

    Cuba: Authorities Step Up Harassment Of Independent News Centre
    Written by: Reporters Without Borders
    July 2, 2011
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    The Cuban authorities are waging a campaign to intimidate Hablemos
    Press, a Havana-based independent news centre, presumably because of its
    criticism of the government. In the past three months, 14 of its
    correspondents have been threatened and 10 have been briefly detained on
    at least one occasion.

    According to Hablemos Press director Roberto Jesús Guerra Pérez, the
    situation began to deteriorate during the 6th Congress of the Cuban
    Communist party in April, when new economic and social measures were
    announced. Security agents banned journalists from leaving home
    throughout the congress, Guerra said.

    The hounding of Hablemos Press is typical of the plight of independent
    journalists in Cuba, where civil liberties are universally flouted. A
    new crackdown has been launched on anyone trying to express dissident
    views. Journalists are being subject to repeated arrests and brief
    spells in detention with the aim of reducing them to silence.

    "The measures announced during the 6th Congress must be accompanied by
    an opening-up on human rights and democracy issues," Reporters Without
    Borders said. "We call for the legalization of independent media that
    are not controlled by the state, an end to the criminalization of
    dissident views, access for all Cubans to an unfiltered Internet and the
    repeal of all laws that restrict media freedom. The government must also
    honour its international obligations by ratifying the two UN conventions
    on civil and political rights that it signed in 2008."

    "This is a psychological war," Guerra said, referring to the harassment
    of journalists. "They are trying to silence us by means of death
    threats, incitement to leave the country with our families, and repeated
    detention and interrogation, often lasting more than four hours at a

    According to a report that Guerra provided to Reporters Without Borders,
    the legal basis on which many independent journalists have been arrested
    and detained is a provision of Law 88 on the Protection of National
    Independence and the Cuban Economy, also known as the "gag law." Under
    this provision, anyone who is deemed to have caused serious harm to the
    economy by cooperating with foreign media can be sentenced to two to
    eight years in prison. Many journalists were arrested under the same
    provision during the "Black Spring" of 2003.

    Calixto Ramos Martínez Arias, who has been a Hablemos Press
    correspondent since 2009, was arrested twice in May. The second time he
    was arrested, on 16 May, he spent 75 hours in police custody on the
    orders of a state security official, although no grounds were given.
    After destroying his ID card, the state security official said he would
    shoot Martínez in the head the next time he saw him in the police
    station. Martínez was repeatedly deported from Havana to Camaguey in
    2010 because of his journalistic work.

    Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, the Hablemos Press correspondent in
    Camagüey, was physically attacked by state security agents while
    covering a demonstration organized by the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
    Human Rights Union in 3 June, suffering bruising to the ribs and cuts to
    the face and body. He was then held for eight hour in a state security
    unit, where he received no medical treatment. He says he was subjected
    to "psychological torture and systematic mistreatment."

    Carlos Ríos Otero and Sandra Guerra have been threatened by both state
    security agents and members of the national police in Havana. Ríos has
    been arrested twice. Guerra was detained for more than 48 hours in her
    home by a total of 20 agents. Stones were thrown at the home of Jaime
    Leygonier Fernández after he wrote an article that was very critical of
    the government.

    Yoandris Gutiérrez Vargas, Enyor Díaz Allen and Raul Alas Márquez have
    all been detained twice. Gutiérrez was arrested on 17 and 22 June while
    covering dissident Jorge Cervantes' hunger strike in Santiago de Cuba.
    Díaz was arrested in Guantánamo, where he was also physically attacked
    by government supporters during the 6th Congress. Alas was arrested in
    Cielo de Avila.

    Magaly Norvis Otero Suárez, a journalist who works for both Hablemos
    Press and Miami-based Radio Martí, was insulted on 7 June, She also
    keeps a blog in which she reports arbitrary arrests and other human
    rights abuses.

    Four prisoners – Alexander Suárez Torres, Carlos Amir Cárdenas Cartava,
    Jorge Félix Otero Morales and Ramón Arias Acosta – suffered a
    deterioration in prison conditions after providing Hablemos Press with
    information. Suárez and Cárdenas were transferred from Havana to prisons
    in Camagüey. Otero and Arias were confined to punishment cells.

    Finally, the dissident cyber-journalist Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the
    European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, was
    detained yet again on 27 May and was held for 12 hours at the provincial
    police operations headquarters along with 11 other dissidents.

    The Cuban people are still denied the right to receive and impart
    information and several journalists have been forced to leave the
    country. On World Refugee Day on 20 June, Reporters Without Borders paid
    tribute to those journalists who, after being forced to flee their
    country, continue to work as journalists and thereby defy those who
    tried to silence them.

    In this report, entitled "Forced to flee but not silenced – exile media
    fight on," Reporters Without Borders interviewed refugee journalists
    from all parts of the world, including Cuba, with the aim of helping to
    make their voices heard.
    About the author:

    Reporters Without Borders

    Reporters Without Borders defends journalists and media assistants
    imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job and exposes the
    mistreatment and torture of them in many countries.


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