IAPA condemns arrests of independent journalists in Cuba


Miami (May 4, 2021).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the arrest of independent Cuban journalists Mary Karla Ares González and Esteban Rodríguez. The hemispheric organization also denounced the smear campaigns in the state media against those who exercise their right to protest.

The journalists were arrested on April 30 during a demonstration of opponents of the regimen that asked to access the home of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to find out his health condition. Otero Alcántara, from the San Isidro Movement, has been on a hunger strike since last week in protest at the siege of State Security agents. On May 2, agents broke into his home and he was taken to a hospital.

Jorge Canahuati, president of the IAPA, condemned the arrest and stated, "In Cuba, restrictions on civil protests and stigmatization of independent journalists continue through the state media, as we have been denouncing." Canahuati demanded the immediate release of Ares González and that the whereabouts of Rodríguez, who has disappeared since his arrest.

The president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, said, "We are attentive to the situation because we know that journalists have already been singled out by the security and police forces, and, unfortunately, in the country there is not an autonomous legal system that protects the exercise of freedom of the press and expression".

Ares González, from Amanecer Habanero, a community media outlet of the Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP), and Rodríguez, a contributor to the digital magazine ADN Cuba, were arrested along with nine other people.

The regime accuses Ares González, 28, of the alleged crime of public disorder, which carries a penalty of between three months and one year in jail, cash fines or both. This legal figure is frequently used to suppress freedom of expression and to accuse opponents and independent journalists. Ares González was arrested when she broadcast the police repression against the protesters live on her Facebook wall.

Rodríguez's case has been classified as "forced disappearance", and the political police have not responded to the claims of his family and colleagues about his whereabouts.

Canahuati, CEO of Grupo Opsa, Honduras, and Jornet, director of the Argentine newspaper La Voz de Interior, also referred to the resolution on non-interference and freedom of association, arising from the recently concluded semi-annual meeting of the IAPA, which reaffirms that when a State obstructs the right to freedom of association, in any of its forms, "it not only restricts freedom of association, but also obstructs the work of promoting and defending human rights."

IAPA is a non-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 the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, U