HAVANA TIMES – Cuban authorities should stop barring journalist Luz Escobar from leaving her home, and cease harassing independent journalists in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Beginning on November 16, authorities have repeatedly barred Escobar, a reporter for the independent Cuban news website 14yMedio, from leaving her home in Havana, according to news reports and tweets by Escobar.
On November 16, Escobar tweeted that a security agent was standing at her doorway and would not allow her to leave unless he accompanied her. She posted similar tweets on November 23, November 25, and December 10.
Escobar told CPJ in a phone interview that authorities often prevent independent journalists from working on “significant dates” either by detaining them or stopping them from exiting their homes. She called the practice “random house arrest, without any process,” and said that she has not been made aware of any charges filed against her.
“Physically barring a journalist from leaving her home is a blunt and ugly form of censorship,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Cuban authorities must allow Luz Escobar to move as she wishes if they want to even pretend that they care about opening up free expression in the country.”
On November 17, independent Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez also tweeted that she had recently been barred from leaving her home, and on December 10, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, editor of the digital news magazine El Estornudo, tweeted the same.
November 16 was the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana, according to news reports. November 25 was the third anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death, and December 10 was international Human Rights Day, Escobar and Enoa noted in their tweets. In her November 23 tweet, Escobar asked “is anyone aware of what is happening today?”
In her November 25 tweet, which included a video, Escobar said that the agent at her door said he was following orders and threatened to detain her if she went out.
Authorities previously barred Escobar from leaving her home on July 28, 2019, she tweeted at the time. In May, police briefly detained her while she was reporting in Havana, saying she did not have a proper journalist’s credential, Escobar told CPJ.
On May 22, August 19, and September 21, immigrations officers prevented Escobar from leaving Cuba, she told CPJ. She said the officers would not tell her why she was barred from leaving the country, and said she had not been notified of any investigation or case against her that would include such a restriction.
CPJ emailed the Cuban Ministry of Interior for comment at the email address listed on its website, but did not receive any response.
Cuba ranked 10th on CPJ’s 2019 10 Most Censored survey, the only country in the Americas to be included in the list.