A global human rights organization is accusing the Cuban government of being behind an attack on a prominent journalist on the island.

The Human Rights Foundation said on Wednesday that the journalist, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, was brutally attacked last week in Havana as he was heading to the Czech embassy to use the Internet.

HRF said that a man came up to Guerra, who is the founder and director of the Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS), and proceeded to punch and kick him on his face and head. Guerra suffered injuries, including a broken nose, HRF said, adding: “The attack continued as Guerra was grabbed violently by the neck and thrown to the ground. The attacker used an unidentified sharp object to inflict wounds on the journalist’s head and stomach.”

HRF said that the Cuban government was behind the assault, noting that four men then arrived and told the attacker: “That’s enough, don’t hit him anymore.”  

The attacker then warned Guerra: “This is so that you can see what we do to members of the opposition.”

HRF said that Guerra recognized one of the four men as someone who took part in what is known in Cuba as an “act of repudiation,” an attack planned by the Cuban regime on citizens believed to be a threat to it. In such acts, mobs go to the house of the target and cover it with graffiti, and scream offensive comments at the occupants of the home.

“Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where it can be said with certainty that freedom of expression is non-existent,” HRF president Thor Halvorssen said in a press release.

“Information can only be obtained through state-owned media and the few lucky Cubans who can access the internet, which is tightly restricted by the regime, get their news through a ‘Wikipedia’ created by the dictatorship.”

Halvorssen said those who speak out on the island or those who try to report the news in an unbiased way are dismissed as a “worm,” a “mercenary,” or a “counterrevolutionary.”

“For HRF and for the friends of human rights around the world who are familiar with the work of Hablemos Press, Roberto Guerra is not a worm, but a hero,” he said.

HRF said other journalists as well as reporters who work for Guerra’s CIHPRESS have been harassed in the recent week by Cuban government agents.

Guerra established CIHPRESS in 2009, HRF said, when Cuban officials imprisoned 75 independent journalists as part of a sweep that resulted in the arrest of numerous opponents or critics of the government.

“Government secrecy in democracies is difficult to maintain under the bright lights of thousands of media outlets operating legally and openly, but, under a dictatorship, those individuals who try to shed even a small ray of light on government abuses must be willing to pay the highest of prices,” Halvorssen said. “This is why those of us who enjoy the freedoms of a democratic nation cannot abandon these critical voices.”

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