Independent Cuban journalist detained, accused of fomenting enemy propaganda

Independent Cuban journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro was arrested February 20, 2017 and detained for about 36 hours while traveling to cover a meeting between Cuban dissidents and the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), according to press reports. The editor of digital magazine La Hora de Cuba said police charged him with fomenting enemy propaganda.

In a statement, the Inter American Press Association said that Constantín was detained along with Sol García Basulto, the Camagüey correspondent for the independent news website 14ymedio. García was released without charge after a few hours but Constantín was held until about noon February 22, 2017 and accused of fomenting enemy propaganda, according to the Inter American Press Association.

Constantín, 32, was arrested shortly before midnight at the airport in the central city of Camagüey, where he is based, according to reports. The journalist, who is a regional vice president for the Inter American Press Association, was traveling to the capital, Havana to cover a ceremony at which dissidents were due to present an award to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. The Uruguayan diplomat has often criticized President Raúl Castro’s Communist government. The event was later cancelled when the Cuban government rejected Almagro’s visa request.

Ricardo Trotti, executive director of the Inter American Press Association, told CPJ that Cuban authorities dropped the charges, which can carry an eight-year prison sentence, on February 27, 2017.

Constantín told 14ymedio that agents initially accused him of taking part in “international provocation.” But, he said, the accusation was changed to enemy propaganda based on information contained on his laptop computer that police confiscated when Constantín was briefly detained in November. Constantín said that he was told was told that the information on his computer was “counter-revolutionary.”

The Inter American Press Association statement said that while he was being questioned, a Cuban official told Constantín that he had three choices: shut up, leave Cuba or go to prison. Constantín told 14ymedio that since his detention three security agents have been stationed outside his house in Camagüey.

Constantín and several university students founded the current version of La Hora de Cuba in 2014. The bi-monthly magazine is often critical of living conditions in Cuba.

In December, the Miami-based Inter American Press Association named Constantín as a regional vice president for its press freedom commission. At the time, Constantín pledged to defend independent journalism in Cuba.