International PEN is alarmed by reports that renowned internet writer Yoani Sánchez and fellow bloggers Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo and Claudia Cadelo were abducted and beaten by state security agents while on their way to a demonstration in Havana on November 6, 2009. PEN is concerned that the attack may signal the beginning of a new wave of repression against the new generation of bloggers who until now have enjoyed relative freedom in a country where writers are commonly imprisoned for their work. It calls on the Cuban authorities to respond to the allegations of the attack and, if they are well-founded, to bring the agents responsible to justice. PEN also continues to call for the unconditional release of the 26 writers, journalists and librarians currently in prison for their writings.

Background Information

Internet writers Yoani Sánchez, Claudia Cadelo and Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo were reportedly abducted and assaulted while on their way to a peaceful demonstration in the capital Havana on November 6, 2009. According to PEN’s information, the three were walking to a march against violence against dissidents when unknown men forced them into an unmarked vehicle. One of the men, whom the bloggers believe were plainclothes state security agents, reportedly warned bystanders not to get involved as the writers were “counterrevolutionaries.” The three writers were beaten and threatened before being released.

Sánchez, who says that she was told by one of her assailants that her “clowning around” was over, reportedly needed to walk with a crutch for several days after the assault. There has been no official comment on or independent confirmation of the attacks to date.

Online journalism by Cuban journalists has flourished since the 1990s, according to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), but today’s bloggers represent a new generation. “Unlike the independent press of the 1990s, which was composed mostly of opposition activists with strong political views, today’s bloggers have established themselves as distinct from both the government and the dissident movement […] Whether by design or not, they have been shrewd in not directly challenging the Cuban regime.”

Sánchez has been writing her blog on everyday life in Cuba, Generación Y, since early 2007. The site reportedly receives one million hits per month and is translated into at least 15 languages. It has won Sánchez the Ortega y Gasset prize and the Mary Moors Cabot award from Columbia University for Internet journalism, although the Cuban authorities have denied her permission to leave the country in order to receive the honors. Cadelo writes the blog Octavo Cerco.

Cuba keeps 26 writers, journalists and librarians in prison in violation of their right to freedom of expression. All are serving lengthy sentences—up to 27 years—on "anti-state" or "social dangerousness" charges in relation to their work. Most are in poor health yet have limited access to medical treatment. For more information, visit International PEN.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the abduction and assault of the Internet writers Yoani Sánchez, Claudia Cadelo and Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, reportedly by state security agents, while the writers were on their way to a peaceful demonstration in Havana on November 6, 2009;
  • Expressing concern that the Internet writers were targeted for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, in violation of international law, including articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cuba signed in February 2008;
  • Calling on the authorities to ensure that those responsible for the attack are brought to justice;
  • Also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the 26 writers, journalists and librarians currently imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Send Your Letter To

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after January 17, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org