New York, June 23, 2017--Cuban authorities should immediately release independent journalist Manuel Alejandro León Velázquez and return his equipment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. State security forces and Interior Ministry officials detained León Velázquez around 4 p.m. yesterday in the eastern province of Guantánamo, according to his news website Diario de Cuba and the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press.
The journalist's neighbor, Isael Poveda, told Diario de Cuba that he saw authorities arrive at León Velázquez's home with an order to confiscate "counter-revolutionary" equipment. According to Poveda, who is an opposition activist, police arrested León Velázquez and took a computer, a Sony camera, a copy of the Cuban constitution, and work documents from the journalist's home. CPJ was unable to determine what documents were confiscated.
"Independent journalists in Cuba should be able to work without the constant threat of arbitrary detention," said CPJ Senior Program Coordinator for the Americas Carlos Lauría. "Cuban authorities should release Manuel Alejandro León Velázquez and return his equipment immediately."
León Velázquez covers general news in Guantánamo and other eastern Cuban states for the independent news website Diario de Cuba. Normando Hernández, director of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press, told CPJ today the organization is aware of the case, and has spoken with León Velázquez's editor, who confirmed the arrest.
León Velázquez has been detained on several occasions, including in October 2016 while reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, and in February 2017, when police detained him for two hours at a checkpoint on the border between Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba province, Diario de Cuba reported.
A September 2016 CPJ special report on press freedom in Cuba found that independent journalists there continue to face the threat of arbitrary detention, and that vague and outdated laws and limitations on internet access continue to slow progress on press freedom.