Friday, September 28, 2012

Independent news agency under threat in Cuba

Independent news agency under threat in Cuba
Published: September 28, 2012 Updated 3 hours ago
By DANA SANTS — The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

It appears that Cuban authorities are determined to eliminate one of the
few independent sources of news on the island nation.

That was the message conveyed to Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez, the head
of the independent Hablemos Press, by one of the agency's reporters who
is currently in prison.

The reporter, Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias, was arrested earlier this
month on charges of "disrespecting" Cuban President Raul Castro and his
older brother, Fidel. Martinez has since required medical treatment for
injuries sustained while in custody.

While Martinez has been taken into custody on numerous occasions, this
is the first time the reporter has actually faced charges. Guerra
speculates that the Cuban security service want to take the journalist
"out of circulation" temporarily.

Independent journalists and human rights advocates are regularly
detained in Cuba. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says
"political conformity" is enforced through "short-term detentions,
beatings, public acts of repudiation, forced exile, and travel

An editorial in the state-controlled newspaper Granma in late July
described independent journalists, opposition parties and human rights
defenders as "vulgar agents whom the United States government and its
allies pay, supply and instruct. They betray their nation for a few coins."

Guerra himself is no stranger to confrontations with the authorities. He
was arrested and beaten by police earlier this month.

In a Twitter posting on September 25, Guerra said, "Neither my phone nor
Magaly's (his wife) can receive calls. Only yesterday were we able to
begin sending messages, but we can neither make nor receive calls."

It's all part of the government's attempt to limit access to Hablemos
Press, he suspects.

Hugo Landa, who heads the U.S.-based Cubanet website, says Hablemos
Press plays an essential role by providing information about what is
really happening in Cuba.

"Hablemos Press has become a source of independent information that
covers practically the entire island ... despite the government siege
that makes this very difficult," he said. "They are also able to quickly
send their reports to the outside world, giving them a value of
immediacy that is often lacking due to restricted Internet access in Cuba."

From his prison cell, Martinez Arias asks colleagues to remain calm,
asking them simply to "continue their work as journalists."


Dana Sants is an independent journalist in Mexico. This article first
appeared on a website maintained by The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of
conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War &
Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: For information about IWPR's funding, please go to

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers.
McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the
opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the
views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

2012 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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