How Independent Journalists Are Harassed

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
By Laura Paz in The Institute of War & Peace Reporting:

Cuban Journalist Accused of Spreading "False News"

Yaremis Flores Marín’s arrest sparks two days of protests.

Independent Cuban journalist Yaremis Flores Marín has described how she was held for three days last month threatened with charges of spying and spreading false information.

Police accused her of being behind an article that she did not actually write.

Flores Marín is a lawyer by profession who also works as a journalist, collaborating with news websites like CubaNet, Diario de Cuba and Primavera Digital.

When she was freed on November 9 after 72 hours in detention, she described her experience.

“I was taking food to my dad, who had a suspected case of dengue fever, and when I arrived at Alamar Road, I saw a patrol car facing in the opposite direction on the road. Suddenly I heard a car braking behind me. Then officer Tomás came up to me and said, ‘You have to come with me.’”

Over the next three days, the authorities tried to portray Flores Marín as a counterrevolutionary. She was assigned a criminal record number and taken to the prison most feared by Cuban dissidents, 100 y Aldabó, located on the south side of central Havana.

She experienced first-hand the methods used against dissidents.

“They accused me of spreading false news because of [an article on] dead prisoners in Mar Verde,” she said, referring to a prison in eastern Cuba which was badly hit by rain and wind during Hurricane Sandy in late October.

“They showed me an article which was signed not by me, but by the editors [of Cubanet] who published it,” she said.

The authorities also accused Flores Marín, who set up the Cubalex project offering legal advice to people in need, of unlawfully publishing information about court cases.

According to Flores Marín, Officer Tamayo, who is in charge of her case, told her that this court information was classified so her actions therefore constituted “espionage”.

When Flores Marín was detained, other independent journalists, bloggers and activists tried to get information on what was happening to her from the State Security service’s Department 21, which deals with the press, in the Habanero de Marianao municipality.

This resulted in a wave of further detentions. Among those detained were Flores Marín’s husband Veizant Boloy, who is a lawyer as well; Laritza Diversent, journalist and co-founder of Cubalex; and Antonio Rodiles, founder of the independent television programme Estado de Sats.

Boloy and Diversent were released the next day.

Diversent refused to sign a record of her arrest, which said she was accused of counterrevolutionary activity. She says the authorities were “really annoyed” at having people turn up so quickly to ask about Flores Marín.

Rodiles was held until November 26, when a charge of resisting arrest was dropped and he was fined of 800 pesos, about 32 US dollars.

On November 8, a demonstration took place outside a police station in Havana in protest at the arrest of both Flores Marín and Rodiles. Well-known blogger Yoani Sánchez was among those detained; others in the group were beaten.

According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the average number of arrests since 2010 to date has tripled.

Laura Paz is an independent journalist in Cuba.