RSF calls Cuba to free jailed journalist and remove terrorism charges

By Samantha Badgen

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calledCuban authorities to release independent journalist Juliet Michelena Diaz, who was arrested on April 7.

Diaz was arrested three days before an article she wrote on an episode of police violence she witnessed in La Habana was set to run in Cubanet, a news site based in Miami. The article detailed the use of police dogs in the streets and the arrest and excessive use of force against citizens.

According to Noticias Terra, an RSF spokesperson told EFE that since the article wasn’t published until after Diaz was arrested, they can’t rule out that the authorities knew about the content of the article beforehand.

RSF said the charges the reporter faces have changed throughout the week since her arrest. First authorities accused her of threatening a neighbor and now they’re accusing her with terrorism, despite the apparent lack of evidence to corroborate the charges. The terrorism charges prevents a quick release, which is often the case with arbitrary detentions on the island.

“We urge the authorities to free Michelena without delay and drop all charges against her,” said Lucie Morillon, head of research at Reporters Without Borders. “The decision to bring a more serious charge indicates a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting. Police violence is nonetheless far from being a subject that Cubans can easily forget.”

Diaz belongs to the Cuban Network of Community Journalists (RCCC), a group that defends freedom of information, whose meetings are often broken up by the police, resulting in several arrests, although often of short duration.

Diaz had already been arrested once before, on March 26, but was freed a few hours later. Arbitrary detentions in Cuba aim to destabilize journalists and slow their exchange of information, RSF said.

In addition to Diaz, there are three other journalists and bloggers currently behind bars in Cuba. Yoeni Jesús Guerra García was arrested on October 2013 and sentenced to seven years in prison in March; Angel Santiesteban-Prats was jailed more than a year ago and José Antonio Torres, of the government newspaper Granma, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in July 2012.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.