Journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca left Cuba for exile in the United States on June 5 after serving nearly three years in prison. (Photo: Noticias Cubanet Cuba/YouTube)
Journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca left Cuba for exile in the United States on June 5 after serving nearly three years in prison. (Photo: Noticias Cubanet Cuba/YouTube)

Cuban journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca released, forced into exile

Miami, June 6, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of Cuban journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, but is deeply concerned he was forced into exile, and calls on Cuban authorities to allow reporters to work freely in the country without fear of reprisal. 

Valle left Cuba for the United States on Wednesday, June 5, after serving nearly three years in prison, according to local press freedom group the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), and the Miami Herald

Valle was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2022 for contempt and sharing “enemy propaganda” in connection with a video posted on his YouTube channel, Delibera, of pro-democracy leaflets thrown from a building in the capital, Havana. 

ICLEP reported that Valle Roca arrived in the United States on humanitarian parole, and that his release from prison was on the condition that he leave Cuba. 

“Although we welcome Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca’s prison release, it is disconcerting that the Cuban government has forced Valle into exile rather than allowing him to do his job,” said CPJ U.S., Canada and Caribbean Program Coordinator Katherine Jacobsen. “The Cuban government should allow journalists to work freely, without fear of imprisonment or forced exile.” 

ICLEP general manager, Normando Hernández confirmed in a text message to CPJ that Valle had safely landed in Miami with his wife on Wednesday.

“After almost three years of unjust imprisonment, Yuri is finally free,” Hernández wrote on the ICLEP’s website

Valle’s expulsion of Valle Roca is the latest example of a crackdown by Cuban authorities on independent media that began following street protests in July 2021 which began in response to longstanding frustrations with the government and restrictions on rights and scarcity of food and medicines. As a result of the government crackdown, journalists, activists and other civil society members were either jailed or forced to leave the island.

Cuban law prohibits the establishment of independent media organizations outside the country’s socialist state system. Journalism is not one of the legally permitted professions under Cuba’s 2021 legalization of private business activity. Cuba’s updated ‘Social Communication Law,’ approved by Cuba’s National Assembly on May 26, 2023, prohibits the dissemination of information that aims to “subvert the constitutional order and destabilize the socialist State of law and social justice.”

Valle had been held in pretrial detention since June 15, 2021, when he was arrested after police summoned him to allegedly close a 2020 contempt investigation. In June 2022, prosecutors requested a six-year sentence in his case.

Valle has suffered from multiple health conditions during his detention, including complications related to his previous hunger strike, according to CPJ research.