Journalist under house arrest

New York, April 12, 2001 — Cuban authorities placed local journalist Ricardo González Alfonso under house arrest on April 9, according to the local independent news agency CubaPress.

González Alfonso, 49, is the Cuba correspondent for the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

National Revolutionary Police (PNR) officers detained the journalist after his former wife filed a complaint alleging that he had threatened her, CubaPress reported. (Like many divorced couples in Cuba, where there is an acute housing shortage, González Alfonso and his ex-wife share the same house.)

González Alfonso was arrested Monday afternoon and released at around 5 p.m. Apparently, the police only discovered that he was a journalist after he was already in detention.

At 10 p.m., two police agents appeared at González Alfonso’s home with a house arrest warrant (that was missing the required signature and stamp.) CubaPress reports that under Cuban law, house arrest can be imposed for up to 20 days, by which time the district attorney is required to rule on the matter.

It is highly unusual for Cuban police to impose house arrest in a domestic dispute, CPJ sources say. And given that González Alfonso still lives with his ex-wife, it is unclear why police would effectively lock them up together in response to her complaint against him.

“CPJ is disturbed that our colleague Ricardo González Alfonso is temporarily unable to carry out his vital work in support of press freedom in Cuba,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

González Alfonso’s affiliation with RSF has exposed him to repeated harassment from Cuban authorities. In mid-February, the journalist was detained for four hours and interrogated about interviews that he had given to a Miami radio station, while his house was placed under police surveillance.

“CPJ is disturbed that our colleague Ricardo González Alfonso is temporarily unable to carry out his vital work in support of press freedom in Cuba,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call for his immediate release from house arrest.”

The latest incident follows recent meetings between Cuban independent journalists and European parliamentarians to discuss press freedom issues during the 105th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, held April 1-7 in Havana.

These meetings were nearly unprecedented in Cuba, where authorities try to keep local independent journalists from having any meaningful contact with the world outside Cuba.

During the meetings, CubaPress director Raúl Rivero and his colleagues raised the issue of their jailed colleague Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who has been behind bars since October 1997. According to CPJ research, Arévalo Padrón is the only journalist currently imprisoned for his work anywhere in the Americas region.