Some of you might know their names: Aleiny, Jose Leandro, Meilin, Mauro; but they are not the only ones. They are four of the nine members of the El Toque team who have recently resigned from their work due to direct and indirect pressure from Cuban State Security organs.
We speak now, out of our commitment with these colleagues. These young journalists have been able to give a demonstration of civility, despite the pressures to which they are subjected. They are afraid —we all are—, but even so they have refused to testify against their colleagues and have clearly pointed out the repressor.
Since we denounced the arbitrary act of prohibiting six of our colleagues from leaving the country, who were on their way to the Media Party of Argentina —the most important media innovation conference in Latin America—, the blackmail and threats against our collective have only escalated.
We are living days of great sadness and indignation. It generates a great emotional conflict for us when team members are forced to stop working, for no other reason than that of unaccountable authoritarianism. These Cuban colleagues, who have contributed their talent and dedication to making El Toque a media that serves, in every sense of the word, are today forced to abandon the exercise of independent journalism.
We are outraged by the arsenal of punishments that the repressors have deployed against such young people.
The demand that they resign from work (and do so publicly, without naming State Security, as if it were a ghost) is not the only condition that the political gendarmes have imposed. The confiscation of basic work equipment and the prohibition to leave the country to anyone who is part of the collective are announced as steps on a path that will lead to prosecution under the new Penal Code. All types of threats have been made during repeated interrogations at police stations, State Security “protocol” houses or in invasions of the personal space of colleagues, using family and friends as messengers (and, therefore, inflicting collateral damage).
The tactic is not exclusive against El Toque journalists. We read more and more frequent reports of colleagues from other independent media who had to stop their work due to the weight of the demands placed on them. Likewise, that of so many others, such as Ismario Rodríguez, from Periodismo de Barrio, or Luz Escobar, from 14yMedio, who resist despite all the damage they receive.
These are practices of harassment that a growing number of Cuban citizens suffer if they dare to express their discontent on social networks, participate in pots-and-pans protests or show solidarity with political prisoners and exiles after the social explosion of July 11, 2021.
Let’s call things by their name. The repressive episodes —which are not new but are becoming more frequent— and the strategy of State Security to silence dissent, are consistent with the definition of “psychological torture” described in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the United Nations Organization, of which Cuba is a signatory.
Cuban society has suffered an escalation of repression for months and our journalism has reported it. The editorial by El Toque today responds to the context of a Cuba in which police and state violence repress any-and-all types of dissent. Meanwhile, the lack of political, social. and economic freedoms keeps the country mired in a deep crisis.
In these circumstances, advocating for human rights, social justice, the rule of law, prosperity, and the construction of a true republic in our land are not a matter for impartiality. We have changed, evolved, and will continue to do so.
What response is expected in the face of the lies, slander and threats made by shadowy officials from the Ministry of the Interior at the service of the government of Miguel Diaz-Canel and the Communist Party? How to react when a young person is told they cannot leave Cuba if they do not film a video accusing their colleagues. That, otherwise, the island will become their prison, taking away the possibility (and the right) of going abroad to study, visit or live in other countries? How to remain unscathed when you are accused of being a mercenary and unpatriotic for showing a reality that those in power need to hide?
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said that if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. We’ve stated it before too: our journalism is truthful, not neutral. Our effort is focused on facts, on data, on reflecting what the state propaganda machinery wants to hide, and what is lost in the biased narrative of political interests of any kind. No one should expect from us a fatuous and cowardly impartiality. Cuba suffers and it is not primarily or only because of the US embargo. For Cuba that suffers, as Martí wrote, it will always be our first word.
To our colleagues who resist, to those who have had to abandon independent journalism and to those who will have to, we express our gratitude and admiration. Know, as Oswaldo Paya’s phrase evokes, that the night will not be eternal.
In Havana, Madrid, Miami, Toronto, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Lausanne, and Guayaquil, we sign, on August 31, 2022.
If you believe that our journalism is important for Cuba and its people, we want you to know that this is a critical moment.
Behind each publication there is a team that strives to ensure that our products meet high quality standards and adhere to professional and ethical values.
However, to keep a close watch over government, demand transparency, investigate, analyze the problems of our society and make visible the hidden issues on the public agenda is an effort that requires resources.
You can contribute to our mission and that is why today we ask for your help. Select the way you prefer to send us a donation.