Criminalisation of citizen journalism continues: Sol García Basulto under house arrest

Expression

After months of being harassed by law enforcement, an independent journalist was placed under house arrest on July 24th for conducting an interview on a public street. According to authorities, Sol García Basulto, editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba and correspondent of the Cuban site 14ymedio, and another reporter, Henry Constantín Ferreiro, are being accused of "encroachment of legal capacity" because they did not have permission from the state to act as journalists. In an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism, García Basulto explained why she is being targeted, stating that: “[B]ecause we are not journalists with official media, it is assumed, according to them, we cannot do journalism. Nor do we have a journalism degree, which would be impossible considering the political profile of Cuban universities". In response to being placed under house arrest, García Basulto will file a formal complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office. This move comes a month after a similar complaint filed on behalf of Ferreiro failed to receive a response from authorities.

García Basulto has been targeted by the government for almost a year. Along with being harassed while trying to enter and leave the country for work, she was arrested in February 2017, as reported previously on the Monitor. These actions have taken a heavy toll on her, as she explained: 

"People are afraid to approach me. I have lost relationships with those who were my schoolteachers, my instructors, my friends, people who used to trust me, now they reject me out of fear, out of fear, out of panic".

Association

A recently-released U.S. State Department report covering freedom of religion in Cuba in 2016 found that government oppression of activists and severe limitations on basic freedoms pertaining to religious activity were widespread in Cuba, as stated below: 

“The government harassed and detained outspoken religious figures, especially those who discussed human rights or collaborated with independent human rights groups,” the report concluded. Many of the complaints involved the surveillance and discrimination of activists, including the use of covert informants in places of worship, and severe restrictions on speech. Several religious leaders said “they feared their direct or indirect criticism of the government could result in government reprisals, such as denials of permits from the [Office of Religious Affairs], dismantling of religious buildings, or other measures that could limit the growth of their religious groups”.

In addition, according to the report, religious groups are required to seek permission before “holding meetings in approved locations, publishing major decisions from meetings, receiving foreign visitors, importing religious literature, purchasing and operating motor vehicles, and constructing, repairing, or purchasing places of worship. Groups that fail to register may face penalties ranging from fines to closure of their organizations”.

Peaceful Assembly

As reported in the latest Monitor updates on Cuba, security forces continue to use the same pattern of short-term detentions to prevent Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) from demonstrating every Sunday. According to reports, every Sunday during the month of July, between 50 and 70 activists were detained and some of them beaten and fined. According to one of the group’s members quoted by the Panan Post, Ladies in White leader, Berta Soler, and other marchers were assaulted by law enforcement officers for their act of protest. “Berta was beaten by a State Security agent,” Aliuska Gomez stated. “She was beat up by four or five uniformed police officers who also punched her and pushed her,” she added. Deisy Artiles, another activist who was detained, was forced to pay a fine of 150 pesos for her release. This was not the first time Artiles has been detained by authorities. She also had received numerous other fines “for only speaking up for freedom of political prisoners, respect for human rights, and freedom for the people of Cuba”.