Activists continue to face detention for opposing law restricting artistic expression
Detenidos varios artistas cubanos plantados contra el 349 frente al Ministerio de Cultura https://t.co/61KkHzx80o— Liú Santiesteban (@Liusantiesteban) December 3, 2018
As reported previously on the CIVICUS Monitor, a new decree that restricts artistic expressions entered into force in December 2018. Activists opposing the Decree 349 continue to face restrictions, including arbitrary arrest. On 3rd December 2018, three activists protesting in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana were arrested. In the city of Camagüey several artists have been arrested for demonstrating against the decree, as some reportedly have been arrested with the aim of preventing them to attend planned activities. Other activists reported being subjected to harassment, including death threat. Activists oppose the decree as it imposes the obligation to obtain prior authorisation from the Ministry of Culture to develop any cultural and artistic activity.
In a separate development, authorities in Cuba continue to impose travel bans to and from the country on activists allegedly for political reasons. On 20th December 2018, Georggette Chaviano, daughter of pro-democracy activists living in the U.S., was not allowed to enter the country during a family trip to visit a sick relative. On 12th December 2018, according to CIVICUS Monitor's partner organisation REDLAD, a youth activist was not allowed to leave the country to attend an exchange program held by REDLAD in Bogota, Colombia.
Members of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement continue to be subjected to harassment for their activism that includes traditional gatherings on Sundays to reject state repression and demand the release of political prisoners. As documented in their latest report published on 25th November 2018, 67 Damas de Blanco participated in their traditional Sunday march and 26 of them were arrested by the State authorities. In addition, the state continues to use different tactics to persuade the activists to stop demonstrating: from job offerings and sponsorship to leave the country with their whole family, to intimidation tactics such as harassment against their families, and the creation of false testimonies against them.
On 28th November 2018, the Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (Cuban Institute for Freedom of the Press and Expression, ICLEP) reported that three journalists and two volunteers were arrested while distributing some of the local independent journals that ICLEP produces and prints on the island. According to one of the journalists, the police justified the detention arguing that the journalists were distributing "enemy propaganda". In the operation nearly 80 journals were confiscated in addition to flash drives. Furthermore, journalists were threatened with prison if they continued the distribution.
On 4th January 2019, the independent journalist Vladimir Turro Paez was arrested during his attempt to obtain an interview from the Director of the Hijas de Galicia hospital while investigating the death of a newborn in 2018. The hospital authorities refused to grant the interview and called the police who arrested the journalist. Turro Paez was released 24 hours after the arrest with threats of longer imprisonment if he continues with the investigation.