Crackdown on the Independent Press in Cuba

Introduction to De Cuba Magazine
On March 18, 2003. at around 4:30 p.m., 15 police agents raided the house of independent journalist Ricardo González Alfonso, located in the Havana municipality of Playa, and conducted a thorough search.

The raid ended at 3:30 a.m. on March 19. The police confiscated all the copies of the second edition of the independent De Cuba magazine, a voltage stabilizer, a computer, a fax machine, an answering machine, a printer, a video camera, and a photographic camera.

González Alfonso, like other independent journalists, was taken to the Havana headquarters of the State Security Department (DSE), where he was held until April 24, when he was transferred to the Kilo 8 Prison, in Camagüey Province.

González Alfonso’s house served as the offices of the journalists’ association Sociedad de Periodistas Manuel Márquez Sterling, which was founded in May 2001 for the purpose of “promoting freedom of expression and information; continuing the professional training of Cuban independent journalists; defending journalistic ethics; providing moral and financial support to its members; and strengthening ties to Cuban journalists–regardless of where they live–and our foreign colleagues.” Although the organization has submitted all the required documentation to register as an association under Cuban law, the government has yet to respond to the application.

Since the association’s founding, Cuban authorities have made clear that they will not tolerate challenges to the government monopoly on information. In October 2001, DSE officers came to the offices of the association and warned González Alfonso, its president, that they would not allow the group to offer its 2001-2002 courses, which included Spanish grammar, journalism, and English. Since then, the association’s members have managed to continue the courses, changing class schedules and locations to thwart DSE surveillance.

In March 2002, the association was forced to suspend its journalism course–taught by prestigious independent journalist Raúl Rivero and based on a Florida International University course–temporarily after authorities blocked its members from entering the association’s offices.

In December 2002, the association launched its bimonthly magazine, De Cuba, which featured articles by independent journalists. During the search conducted at the association’s offices in March 2003, the police confiscated dozens of copies of the second and last issues, which were published in February 2003.

CPJ is making available an issue of the short-lived magazine to showcase the work and struggle of independent Cuban journalists.

Click here to download a copy of De Cuba. (pdf)