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Blogger Yoani Sánchez arrested shortly after IAPA names her VP for freedom of expression in Cuba

Update: Sánchez was released on Thursday evening. "I walk the streets of Havana again after being detained for several hours. I'm fine! Thank you for the support!" Sánchez wrote on her Twitter account.

According to the Miami Herald, many of the dissidents who were protesting the incarceration of other activists and were arrested with Sánchez are still being detained.

Original: A few hours after the Inter American Press Association named the well-known blogger Yoani Sánchez as their new freedom of expression delegate in Cuba, the Miami Herald and other news outlets reported that the journalist was detained on Thursday with a group of other dissidents.

In response, IAPA called for Sánchez's immediately release, the organization's recently named regional vice chair of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

“The arrest of Yoani Sánchez is a clear attack on the most elemental human rights, among them that of expressing freely, something that is prohibited in Cuba,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the committee. “We demand with all our strength the immediate release of Yoani Sánchez and all the other people arbitrarily arrested for merely thinking differently than those that hold the reins of power.”

Sánchez, the dissident Guillermo Fariñas and around 20 other activists were arrested as part of a series of political arrests that began Wednesday, the news agency EFE reported. According to one of her last tweets, Sánchez was heading toward a police station in Havana to inquire about the arrest of other dissidents.

Yohandry Fontana, who Havana Times identified as someone close to the government of president Raúl Castro, confirmed Sánchez's detention for “public scandal” and “social indiscipline.” Fontana wrote that the journalist continued in custody as of Thursday late afternoon.

This is the second time that Sánchez has been detained in the last two months. Sánchez was detained on Oct. 4 as she went to cover the trial of the Spanish politician Angel Carromero, accused of the involuntary manslaughter of two Cuban dissidents in a car accident. She remained in jail for 30 hours.

A few hours before her arrest was made public on Thursday, the IAPA had just announced the new members in each Latin American country of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. Sánchez was named the committee's vice chair in Cuba.

As a member of the committee – regarded as the cornerstone of the journalism organization – Sánchez will be in charge of documenting and writing reports on freedom of expression abuses committed in her country.

In an audio interview recorded by the Ecuadorian newspaper Hoy, Sánchez said she accepted the position “not only to become the eyes of the Committee on Freedom of the Press in Cuba, but also to open a way to have a press that is respected legally, professionally and ethically.”

“I also like that the reports will come out of Cuba because we have a very specific reality. There are very peculiar details that sometimes when they are seen from the outside cannot be fully appreciated in all their dimensions and depth,” she said.

Sánchez is the founder of the blog Generación Y, in which she shares articles and posts on her daily experiences in the island.

Her relationship with the Cuban government is tense. She has been denied a visa to leave the country around 20 times in the last five years. The Economist called her “the island's most problematic dissident.” What's more, the magazine added, it is believed that a clause in the new Cuban immigration law that continues to prohibit enemies of the Communist party from leaving the country was directed to her.

Sánchez, who has said she will request a visa again when the new law takes effect next January, anticipated her new role with IAPA would attract new issues – and protect her from others – with the Cuban government.

“Of course it's going to bring me a lot of problems, it will bring me criticisms, pressures and slandering in the official press, what we here call public lashing processes. But on the other hand, belonging to the IAPA and being part of a sensible committee like this one is going to be a protection, so in this dynamic on the one side (you have) the problems it is going to bring me and the others it is going help me avoid,” she said during the interview.


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