Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Cuba: Media Repression Mars Obama Visit

Local reporters complain of efforts to silence them.
  • Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca (center) was detained by the regime. (Photo: Ernesto García)
    Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca (center) was detained by the regime. (Photo: Ernesto García)

Activists say that the Cuban government unleashed a concerted campaign of intimidation against independent journalists in the run-up to US President Barack Obama’s March 20-22 visit.

The Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP), a body tolerated by the Cuban government although it has no legal status, reported that since March 16 numerous journalists had been harassed, threatened and detained.

Two journalists from Hablemos Press Information Centre - Lewis Miguel Guerra Tamayo and photojournalist Yaser Fernando Rodríguez - were arrested by plain-clothed policemen near the Ernest Hemingway Museum.

On March 19, other journalists from the same news agency were detained at the José Martí International Airport when returning to Cuba. Officials tried to take away their recording equipment.

Local reporters for Cubanet News, a website based in Miami, were not allowed to leave their homes to cover the president’s visit.  

Elsewhere, a state security officer told another journalist, Augusto César San Martin, that he did not want to see him “with a camera for the next few days”.

Another reporter, Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca was beaten and arrested on March 20 and only located several days later when his wife learned that he was being held at the police station in Santiago de Las Vegas.

In Isla de la Juventud province, independent journalists were summoned to police stations without explanation, a practice denounced by the APLP as a way for the government to intimidate journalists and activists.

On March 18, the APLP published a report on the state of freedom of expression since the US-Cuba détente agreed in December 2014.

It documented 54 attacks against journalists, including physical and psychological violence, as well as incidences of arbitrary arrest.