(New York, NY) — On Thursday morning, Cuban police arrested four artists and one independent journalist attempting to leave their houses to participate in a demonstration in support of independent artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who earlier this week began a hunger and thirst strike to protest governmental repression of independent artists. Among those arrested Thursday: artist and activist Tania Bruguera, artists Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Afrika Reina, and independent journalist Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho. In response to the news, Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, said the following:

“Independent artists are under ruthless, unrelenting pressure from authorities in Cuba. Tania Bruguera’s latest arrest—at least the third since January, on top of countless previous arrests throughout her career—is just the latest iteration of the vice-like grip the Cuban government has imposed over artists fighting for their right to express themselves freely, including through their art. These arrests offer a literal demonstration of how independent art and commentary are under siege by the Cuban government. The Cuban authorities must immediately release Tania and her fellow artists and writers, and cease their campaign of harassment and intimidation against Otero Alcántara and other artists on the island.”

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. ARC recently released A Safety Guide For Artists, a resource that offers practical strategies to help artists understand, navigate, and overcome risk, and features an interview with Tania Bruguera about the state of free expression on the island. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.