MIAMI, Florida (February 6, 2018)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed its concern at the disappearance in Cuba of journalist Raúl Velázquez and called on the authorities to act "urgently" and take the necessary steps to ensure his safety.
The Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP) reported that Velázquez, its executive director, had been missing since last Thursday (February 1), while he was traveling from Artemia province to Pinar del Río in the western part of the island.
Between 7:00 and 9:00 that day Velázquez spoke on the telephone with Ivis Yanet Borrego Paulín, director of the community media outlet Panorama Pinareño, whom he had called to a meeting, and then spoke with journalist Alberto Corzo, the ICLEP's Monitoring and Evaluation Director. Since then there has been no word of Velázquez.
IAPA President Gustavo Mohme expressed his concern and called on the authorities "to immediately take steps and put in place the necessary resources to learn Velázquez's whereabouts." Mohme, editor of the Peruvian newspaper La República, used the occasion to condemn "the constant harassment by the political police at the service of an intolerant and archaic regime that seeks to destroy independent journalists and associations."
Velázquez's colleagues in the ICLEP confirmed that in actions by the provincial and national police, as well as by State Security, the journalist had not been detained. He was in jail from November 30 to December 4 and his home was broken into. He was accused of alleged dissemination of false news, receiving money from the United States government and "hiding documents."
Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared, "The Cuban government is constitutionally required to ensure the safety of all citizens." That is why Rock, editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, said "we hope shortly to have news of the journalist, that is its responsibility."
The ICLEP, which accused the government and State Security of the disappearance of Velázquez, has a network of community news media, among them Panorama Pinareño, in Pinar del Río; Amanecer Habanero in Havana; El Majadero de Artemisa in Artemisa; Cimarrón de Mayabeque in Mayabeque; Cocodrilo Callejero in Matanzas, and El Espirituano in Sancti Spíritus.
In another denunciation in recent days the Pro Press Freedom Association (APLP) in Cuba declared in a news release that four of its members were recently called to police stations in apparent reprisal for their report on freedom of the press and expression in Cuba sent to the United Nations to be added to next May's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights.
Amarilis Cortina Rey, Manuel Morejón, Miriam Herrera Calvo and lawyer Odalina Guerrero Lara were "interviewed" in a threatening manner by two political police agents. Guerrero Lara said that one of the agents threatened her with putting her in jail and making her disappear.
The APLP is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting freedom of the press and of expression in Cuba.
In January the political police threatened journalist Luz Escobar of 14ymedio to charge her with committing a common crime if she continued her work as a reporter, and urged her to collaborate with the government in order for it "to have an influence on the editorial stance" of the online newspaper.
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.