A group of 55 journalists, researchers, bloggers, activists, professors and others in Cuba have launched a petition demanding an end to repression against independent journalists and calling for guarantees for press freedom.
They call for “the cessation of repression against those who exercise freedoms of the press and expression in Cuba; the elimination of legal remedies that restrict and criminalize the exercise of such freedoms; the establishment of legal guarantees to exercise them which must include transparency and source protection laws; and the immediate release of [journalist] Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces.”
More than 500 people have signed a petition with these demands that was posted to Avaaz.org and is still garnering signatures.
While the variety of independent journalistic projects has grown on the island in recent years, so has “physical, legal and psychological repression against those who participate in such projects,” the petition reads.
Some of the actions include arbitrary detentions and imprisonment, searches, interrogations, prohibitions on leaving the country, defamation campaigns, cyber attacks, and more, according to the petition.
One such case is the imprisonment of journalist Quiñones Haces, 61, who was jailed on Sept. 11 for resistance and disobedience after he was detained for five days, during which time he said he was physically assaulted.The signatories called for his release. His case, they said, “urges them to stay alert.”
The journalists also emphasized the need for a press that is independent of the state.
Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution says that “the press, radio, television, cinema and other means of mass dissemination are State or social property, and cannot, in any case, be the object of private property.”
“We don’t just understand the decision to exercise journalism independently as a human right, but also as a professional duty,” the petition reads. “We do not believe that we can produce a rigorous journalism, committed to Cuban society and the search for truth, within the margins of a partisan state press model.”
They warned against another Black Spring, like that of 2003, during which independent journalists were arrested. “The legal instruments used to judge them remain in force,” the signatories said. They expressed alarm particularly at Law 80, the Law of reaffirmation of Cuban dignity and sovereignty, and Law 88, the Law of protection of Cuban independence and economy.
Those who signed the petition urged acknowledgement of a link between existing repression and society.
“As long as we don’t understand that the repression of journalists, bloggers and communicators has to do with society, because there are stories and focuses of the stories that the power does not want us to know, we will not be able to implement the changes that journalism needs; above all, we will not be able to make duly informed decision to participate in political life and become that democratic, just and dignified republic that we deserve to be.”