MIAMI, Florida (January 18, 2018)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested threats made by Cuba's political police to Luz Escobar, a journalist with the independent digital newspaper 14ymedio, a situation that demonstrates the restrictions and challenges continuing to be faced in the practice of press freedom and the work of journalists in the country for the past 59 years.
The news Web site reported that on January 15 two officers of the State Security threatened Escobar with charging her with committing a common crime if she continued her work as a journalist. During the 1 h our and 20 minutes meeting with the officers they warned her that they would not allow her to leave the country, they would accuse her before her neighbors of being a counter-revolutionary and would put pressure on her family. They also urged her to collaborate with the government in order to "have influence in the editorial stance" of 14ymedio, a newspaper they accuse of receiving backing from abroad.
IAPA President Gustavo Mohme declared, "What is happening in Cuba continues to be a matter of priority for our organization. This new harassment of an independent journalist only reflects the intolerance and lack of will of the government to respect freedom of expression and of the press. We hold the authorities responsible for the reprisals against Escobar's physical integrity and that of other threatened journalists."
Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Mexican news Web site La Silla Rota, for his part condemned "the vulgar harassment and the threats by the authorities which with the aim of suppressing dissent and punishing different opinion resort to any kind of tactic, such as legal accusations against journalists, public ridicule and family pressure, among other schemes, to punish their critics."
The reporter, who has been working at 14ymedio since its foundation in 2014 and specializes in the cultural area and writes articles on daily life in Havana, was for the first times summoned by the State Security last December.
The 14ymedio editor, Yoani Sánchez, said that she fears for the integrity of the reporters and added, "It is time to call upon the solidarity of press organizations of the region and human rights bodies to warn about what is going on."
In another incident that happened on January 11 the authorities prohibited from leaving their homes the journalists of the magazine La Hora de Cuba in Camagüey, Sol García, Inalkis Rodríguez and Henry Constantín Ferreiro, regional vice chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information in Cuba, due to the fact that President Raúl Castro was making a visit to the city.
In its most recent report on Cuba the IAPA noted that the state of press freedom worsened in 2017 "due to the increase in attacks upon independent journalists and even their family members and users of the social media by police units of the Interior Ministry with the collaboration of the Justice Ministry."
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.