Police patrol the streets of Havana, Cuba, on September 1, 2020. Authorities recently detained and interrogated journalist Carlos Manuel Alvarez. (AFP/Yamil Lage)

Cuban journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez harassed, assaulted by security agents

Miami, December 23, 2020 — Cuban authorities must stop harassing and intimidating journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, and allow all members of the press to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On December 21, at about 2 p.m., security agents in the Playa municipality of Havana summoned Álvarez to a local police station, where they interrogated him for more than two hours and then forcibly transferred him to his family’s home in Cárdenas, in Matanzas province, according to press reports and a video the journalist posted to Facebook.

Álvarez is the director of the Cuban online literary journalism magazine El Estornudo, and also contributes reporting to Spanish newspaper El País, according to those reports.

In the days leading up to the summons, Álvarez was held in de facto house arrest, with security agents stationed outside his home, monitoring him and barring him from leaving, according to news reports. During the interrogation, security officers questioned Álvarez about leaving his home in the evening of December 19, asking where he went and who he met with, he said in the Facebook video.

While being transferred from Havana to Cárdenas, Álvarez briefly escaped custody, but agents found him and assaulted him, and then forced him back in the car, according to those reports and Álvarez’s Facebook video, which showed numerous scratches on his arm that he said were inflicted by the agents.

Álvarez told CPJ yesterday via messaging app that he was scheduled to be interrogated again that day. In his video, Álvarez expressed concern that authorities would jail him if he attempted to leave Cárdenas.

In recent weeks, Álvarez has been subject to at least 17 days of de facto house arrest, and was previously detained when he tried to visit his parents, according to press reports and a Facebook post by El Estornudo.

“Cuban authorities must immediately cease their sustained and vicious harassment campaign against journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Senior Researcher Ana Cristina Núñez. “Cuba has the most hostile environment in the Americas for the press, and the continued harassment of journalists that we have seen there in the past weeks indicates that, contrary to the regime’s propaganda, the situation is worsening.”

Álvarez is a member of the local freedom of expression group the San Isidro Movement, and has recently reported for El País on the government’s crackdown on protests organized by the movement.

Álvarez was scheduled to participate on December 21 in an online course on investigative journalism along with Salvadorian journalist Óscar Martínez, according to media reports. He missed the event, having received a call to appear at exactly 2 p.m. at the police station for a “matter of urgency,” according to media reports.

Cuban authorities have repeatedly harassed journalists since protests affiliated with the San Isidro Movement began in late November, as CPJ has documented.

CPJ emailed the Cuban National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior for comment, but did not receive any responses.