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Cuba thwarts art demonstration by arresting journalists and activists

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera in Havana on 31 December 2014. She was held overnight after organising an unauthorized open microphone demonstration
Cuban artist Tania Bruguera in Havana on 31 December 2014. She was held overnight after organising an unauthorized open microphone demonstration

REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

This statement was originally published on on 31 December 2014.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on the Cuban government to release independent journalists and activists jailed yesterday as they were about to take part in an art show in Havana's Revolution Square to protest censorship.

Remaining under arrest are Víctor Ariel González, reporter, and Claudio Fuentes, photographer, of the online newspaper 14ymedio whose editor is blogger Yoani Sánchez, dissidents Antonio Rodiles and Eliécer Ávila, a student and an activist, and performance artist Tania Bruguera, among others.

Sánchez, who is also the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Vice Chair for Cuba, was under house arrest for several hours yesterday. Her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of 14ymedio, was arrested and then released in the evening.

Under the slogan “I Also Demand” Bruguera used social media to call on citizens to go to the Revolution Square open mic art event to express, for one minute, their opinion about the situation in Cuba. The event was banned by the government which saw it as a political provocation.

Given the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States announced on December 17, the IAPA called on the Cuban government to respect human rights and freedom of expression and of the press. The organization's president, Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, declared, “With this new demonstration of censorship Raúl Castro's government is losing the opportunity to convince us that changes on the island are being taken seriously and will be political as well as economic, which is a priority at this new stage.”

For his part Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, condemned the arrests and added that “once again the Castro government is mocking the international community and all those who live in the hope of a new Cuba, where the right to express oneself continues to be censored by one of the most authoritarian governments in the history of the Americas.”

The two IAPA officers called for the release of those detained, expressed solidarity with Sánchez and declared that “freedom of expression and of the press, and respect for the rest of human rights, is a requirement that should be imposed on the government of Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro by democratic countries of the region.”

Journalist and poet Raúl Rivero, like Sánchez, was another IAPA regional vice chairman for Cuba who was constantly harassed. When he was in that role he was held in jail from April 2003 to November 2004. Since then he has been living in Spain, where he went into exile through a safe-conduct agreement between the Spanish and Cuban governments.

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