Miami, April 24, 2019–Cuban authorities should immediately release journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 22, at around 2:00 p.m., Cuban police agents detained Quiñones, a contributor to the news website CubaNet, as he was standing outside of the Guantánamo Municipal Tribunal, according to CubaNet and the Association for Press Freedom (APLP), a Cuban press freedom organization. At the time of his detention, Quiñones was covering the trial of two Cuban evangelical pastors facing charges for homeschooling their children, CubaNet reported.
While being transported in the police car, agents beat Quiñones, injuring his mouth, tongue, and right thumb and causing an inflammation in his right ear, his wife told APLP. In an audio recording of a phone interview with a journalist from U.S. government-funded RadioMarti recorded before police took his phone away–posted on RadioMarti’s website and reviewed by CPJ–Quiñones said, “They broke my mouth, my shirt is covered in blood and I am detained here, I do not know why, because I was just here in the Municipal Tribunal. My mouth is fractured. They are about to take away my phone.” CubaNet Executive Director Hugo Landa and Editor Roberto Hechavarría Pilia confirmed to CPJ that the voice in the audio is that of Quiñones.
Hechavarría Pilia told CPJ today that Quiñones remains in detention in a Guantánamo police station. Police in Havana detained another Cuban journalist, Augusto César San Martín, last week, according to CPJ reporting.
“The ongoing pattern of detentions of independent journalists like Roberto Jesús Quiñones shows that recent political reforms have not improved the situation for the press,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “If President Miguel Díaz-Canel wants to show the world that his government is committed to positive change in Cuba, authorities should immediately free Quiñones without charge and stop harassing journalists.”
Hechavarría Pilia told CPJ via email that Quiñones’s wife was trying to get access to him today to find out if he had received any medical attention. Quiñones has not been formally charged with a crime and it is unclear what he is accused of, Hechavarría Pilia told CPJ.
CPJ was unable to locate contact information for the National Revolutionary Police headquarters or the police station in Guantánamo. The Ministry of Justice answered CPJ’s call but could not provide information regarding Quiñones’s case.
Quiñones has been harassed by Cuban authorities in the past. He is barred from leaving the country, and has been detained several times, most recently on April 18, when police agents forcefully took him off of a bus on his way to the province of Cienfuegos, brought him to a police station, and interrogated him, with an officer telling him “we are taking note of your articles,” according to CubaNet and APLP.
Cuba is one of the most hostile environments for the press in the world, and ranks among CPJ’s 10 Most Censored Countries.