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Citizen Journalists Attacked, Martí Programming Seized in Cuba

marti logo with blue and red starsMIAMI- Cuban authorities have violently arrested several citizen journalists and confiscated their recording equipment along with DVDs containing Television Martí programming.  Five reporters who frequently contribute to Martí Noticias were assaulted during a July 4th crackdown. The following day, dozens of additional disks containing TV Martí newscasts were confiscated in Camagüey.

Lesbety Guillén and Jose Manuel Guerra, a married couple and members of the dissident group Civic Resistance Front, were preparing to produce a video report when police officers stopped them on their way from Camagüey to their home in Santa Cruz del Sur. The violent attack left Guillén with a broken arm. Their video cameras and DVDs containing TV Martí programming were confiscated.

In Placetas, Villa Clara, three contributors to Martí Noticias, Niurcy Acosta Pacheco, Juan Miguel González Manso, and Acosta Bermúdez, were beaten and arrested as they tried to visit the home of opposition leader Jorge Luis Garcia, a.k.a. Antunez.

All of the citizen reporters bore signs of the incident. Pacheco was repeatedly hit in the mid-section, despite telling the officers that she had recently had abdominal surgery. Acosta was hit in the face and grabbed by the throat.  The day after the attacks, more than 50 DVDs containing TV Martí newscasts were confiscated in Camagüey.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Martís, decried the incident and urged both an investigation and a return of the items seized by police.

“This blatant assault on the rights of Cubans to access information cannot be tolerated,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “We call on the Cuban government to immediately investigate this police brutality, return the seized equipment and take steps to prevent such an outrage from happening again.”

Due to severe media restrictions, most Cubans cannot view TV Martí content over the air. Instead, newscasts and informational programs are recorded on DVDs and distributed across the island through informal networks.

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, director of independent production house Palenque Vision, a regular contributor to Martí Noticias and 2014 winner of the BBG’s Burke Award, has reported on more than 10 of these police attacks in the past year. The assaults, he says, are meant to intimidate reporters and citizen journalists and prevent the spread of information by means apart from state media.