Miami, May 3, 2021 — Cuban authorities must immediately release journalist Mary Karla Ares, drop the criminal investigation into her work, and allow the press to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 30, at about 2 p.m., agents with the Cuban Revolutionary Police and the Political Police arrested Ares, a reporter for the community newspaper Amanecer Habanero, in Havana and took her to a police station in the Havana Playa municipality, according to news reports and Normando Hernández, general manager for the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), a local press freedom organization, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Ares remains in that police station as of today, and authorities are investigating her for criminal “public disorder” over her coverage of recent protests, according to those sources. Ares has not had access to a lawyer or her family since she was arrested, Hernández told CPJ.
“Today, while the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, Cuban authorities are keeping a journalist in detention and investigating her for the mere act of covering a protest,” said CPJ Central and South America Senior Researcher Ana Cristina Núñez. “Authorities must immediately release Mary Karla Ares, drop the criminal investigation into her work, and ensure that she and all other Cuban journalists can work freely.”
Police arrested Ares while she was reporting live on Facebook, covering police breaking up a demonstration in support of Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has been on hunger strike in protest of authorities’ confiscation of his artwork and the lack of free expression in the country, according to news reports, a report by ICLEP, and Ares’ video, which was streamed on her personal Facebook account, where she frequently posts reporting and commentary about political issues in Cuba.
If charged and convicted of public disorder, Ares could face up to one year in prison, according to the Cuban penal code.
CPJ emailed the Cuban National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not receive any replies.
Amanecer Habanero is one of seven free newspapers published in the country by ICLEP, according to its website. Cuban authorities have recently raided ICLEP newspapers’ offices and are suspected to have restricted the internet access of its staff members, as CPJ has documented.