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Cuban authorities detain 10 journalists covering effects of Hurricane Matthew



Update: In an editorial published on Oct. 16, the team at Cuban journalism site Periodismo de Barrio offered details about their detentions on Oct. 11 and 12 in the eastern province of Guantánamo where they had gone to cover the effects of Hurricane Matthew. They also addressed some criticisms of their work. Click here to read the post about the editorial.

 

At least 10 Cuban journalists were detained while covering the effects of Hurricane Matthew in the town of Baracoa in the eastern province of Guantámo on the morning of Oct. 13, according to news site Cubanet.

Hurricane Matthew (By NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from LANCE. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Several journalists for digital news magazine Periodismo de Barrio, including its founder and director Elaine Díaz, were among those detained. According to a relative of Díaz in contact with Cubanet, the journalists were released and are expected to arrive back in Havana later Thursday.

The detention reportedly took place because the journalists did not have the appropriate accreditation. Díaz’s relative said the journalist was looking for permission to reach the area, but it was only given to “accredited” media,” Cubanet added.

The journalists were detained for hours in the city of Guantánamo after being transferred from Baracoa, Univision reported.

 “[Elaine] called me in the morning and told me that she had been detained along with her coworkers. She told me that their equipment would be confiscated. The authorities also reported that they would be deported to Guantánamo. Then they do not know what will happen,” the family member said according to Cubanet before learning of their release.

Díaz wrote on her Twitter account on the morning of Oct. 13 that once the team was in Havana, they would make a joint statement, but would not be giving individual interviews.

She also aid that they will continue their work supporting media in the process of covering the recovery in zones affected by the hurricane, but did not give details about the collaboration.

On Oct. 4, the Periodismo de Barrio team launched a campaign to collect money to cover this issue, according to a message posted on Díaz’s Facebook account. By the next day, they already had reached US $675 of the $1,800 needed. Two days after, Díaz asked for people to stop making donations because they had already collected all the money they needed.

The previous Monday, reporter Maykel González Vivero, collaborater with news site Diario de Cuba, was also detained while conducting an interview related to the devastation of the hurricane in Baracoa. He was released after three days, according to Martí Noticias.

González Vivero said that they confiscated his computer and camera, and he would file a claim with the prosecutor in Guantánamo, Martí Noticias added.

These detentions took place in the midst of a debate on the legitimacy of small independent publications in the country, said digital site 14ymedio. For the pro-government voices, it is important to "maintain the Communist Party’s control on the media and to close ranks against non-official media," it added.

Although independent media have had more space to grow in Cuba in recent years, they still face significant restrictions, according to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Although there is no official version from authorities, the official daily Granma published an article on Oct. 13 in which it mentioned, a "manipulation and in this case provocation from sites that are private or openly at the service of the counterrevolution, which intended to offer an impression, not only different, but distorted from the reality that happened and is still happening while they are recovering.”

Without giving names, the article said that these sites acted without prior authorization and that they conducted their activities “near the illegal Naval Base that the United States maintains in the province of Guantánamo,” which in their opinion was not related to the zones affected by the hurricane.

“The label of provocation is not an exaggeration. When Matthew had already left, including from the U.S. shores, these other ‘communicators’ were present in the Guantánamo geographical area,” the article continued. “Activities of this nature contrast with the professionalism shown by journalists from local, national and foreign media toward the tragedy lived by the hardest hit territories.”



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