HAVANA TIMES – Cuban authorities must drop the fine imposed on reporter Monica Baro and refrain from using Decree 370 to harass independent journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 17, the National Revolutionary Police of the Ministry of the Interior summoned Baro, a reporter for the independent digital news magazine El Estornudo, to their offices in Havana, where agents interrogated her for over two hours and accused her of working for outlets that accept funding from foreign organizations seeking to “overthrow the Cuban revolution,” according to Baro, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and press reports.
At the end of the interrogation, Ministry of Communications inspectors showed Baro a file containing numerous posts from her personal Facebook account, including some posted months ago, and fined her 3,000 Cuban pesos ($120), Baró told CPJ.
Authorities alleged that she violated Article 68(i) of Decree 370, a rule banning the dissemination of “information contrary to the social interest, morals, good manners and integrity of people” on public networks. When Decree 370 was issued in 2019, CPJ warned that it provided a legal tool for Cuban authorities to persecute the independent press.
“Cuban authorities should stop harassing Mónica Baró and other independent journalists on the island who report on social and political issues,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Cuba should urgently review Decree 370 which, as CPJ warned when it was enacted, has become an additional device in the regime’s ever-expanding toolkit to target critical voices and silence the press.”
Baro told CPJ that she was shown the file of Facebook posts quickly, and was only able to identify one post, from the previous day, when she had commented that she received the Ministry of Interior summons and questioned its legality. She said that the interrogators had not discussed her Facebook posts, and had repeatedly talked about the alleged sources of funding for news organizations she has written for.
Baro’s posts on Facebook include personal posts and links to her reporting for El Estornudo.
Baro is at least the fifth independent journalist fined under Decree 370 since it was passed, according to the Association for Press Freedom, a group that advocates for press freedom in Cuba.
Baro said she has refused to sign the official receipt of her fine and has not paid it. She told CPJ she plans to file an appeal.
Cuba is one of the most hostile environments for the press in the world and ranks among CPJ’s 10 Most Censored Countries.
CPJ called the Cuban Ministry of Communications for comment, but no one answered.