PEN America condemns arrest of Cuban artists, mass detention of protesters

This statement was originally published on on 27 January 2021.

Performance artist Tania Bruguera, writer Katherine Bisquet, and journalist Camila Acosta were detained Wednesday in Havana while trying to attend a protest at the Ministry of Culture. Later in the day, demonstrators at the same protest were allegedly detained and taken to an unknown location. The demonstration was in response to an increasing crackdown against artists and free expression on the island.“

After being under de facto house arrest and police surveillance for days, Bruguera, Bisquet, and Acosta were arrested for merely trying to peacefully demand dialogue with Cuban cultural authorities,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Tania has had to face near-constant harassment from police in recent months, and she is not alone. Countless Cuban artists have experienced house arrest, surveillance, and detention. Just hours after Tania was detained, all the demonstrators at the protest she planned to attend, including numerous artists, were detained and effectively disappeared. Such alarming disregard for the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and protest sends a clear message to independent artists and thinkers on the island: speak your mind and risk arrest. We condemn this reprehensible attempt to muzzle dissenting artistic voices. We call on the Cuban government to cease harassing Bruguera and other artists and immediately release all those detained for merely expressing themselves.”

Bruguera was detained outside of her home around 8:00am and was not seen or heard from for approximately four hours, when she was released. She was en route to a protest largely led by members of the 27N movement, a collection of independent artists, writers, and activists that formed after a wave of increasingly brutal attacks on artists that began late last year. Demonstrators at Wednesday’s protest were later detained and violently placed on a bus. Their whereabouts remain unknown. The arrests are part of a broader crackdown on artistic expression in Cuba, especially in the wake of Decree 349, a 2018 regulation that gives the government-wide purview to restrict the cultural sphere.

Bruguera was recently featured in ARC’s new Safety Guide For Artists, a resource that offers practical strategies to help artists understand, navigate, and overcome risk. Recommendations are based upon the voices of thirteen artists who have faced persecution; you can read excerpts from Bruguera’s testimony here.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.

The post PEN America condemns arrest of Cuban artists, mass detention of protesters appeared first on IFEX.



Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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