Provincial journalist detained and expelled from Havana

New York, April 11, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the detention and deportation from Havana of Camagüey-based independent journalist Ernesto Corría Cabrera this week.

Corría Cabrera, a reporter for the Miami-based press agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, told CPJ that he traveled from his home in the eastern city of Camagüey to Havana on Saturday to print the news bulletin El Camagueyano Libre (The Free Camagueyan) at the computer facilities of the United States Interest Section, part of the Swiss Embassy in the Cuban capital. On Tuesday afternoon, after leaving the U.S. diplomatic premises, a police officer stopped the journalist outside the home of Leonardo Bruzón Ávila, president of the opposition movement Movimiento 24 de Febrero. Corría Cabrera was on his way to meet Bruzón Ávila.

“We condemn the detention and expulsion of Ernesto Corría Cabrera. It is nothing more than a means of stopping him from working in his own capital city as a journalist,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Cuban authorities must allow all journalists to move freely through the country.”

After reviewing Corría Cabrera’s I.D. card, the officer informed him that he was being detained for violating a decree that requires Cuban citizens who reside outside Havana to request a special permit to remain in the capital for more than 24 hours, the journalist told CPJ. Independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe told CPJ this decree is often used to deport independent journalists and dissidents from Havana.

Corría Cabrera said he was immediately taken to a Havana police station, where a State Security agent interrogated him. The agent told the journalist that authorities knew who he was and what he was doing in the capital. He added that Corría Cabrera would not be allowed to practice independent journalism in Havana, the journalist told CPJ.

At 2 p.m. on Thursday, Havana police escorted Corría Cabrera to a train station, where he was forced to board a train to Camagüey. According to the journalist, local police in Camagüey told him he would have to report back to them tonight at 8 p.m. before being released.

Corría Cabrera told CPJ that over the last three years he has been detained on several occasions. State Security agents have told him repeatedly that if he does not stop working as an independent journalist, he will face criminal charges under Cuban Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy.

Twenty-two journalists are currently in prison in Cuba, the world’s second-leading jailer of journalists, after China. Twenty have been in prison since a massive crackdown against the independent press in 2003.