Update: All arrested artists have now been released, although they remain under police surveillance. Cuba’s vice minister of culture Fernando Rojas has told the Associated Press that changes will be made to Decree 349 but has not opened dialogue with the artists involved in the campaign against the decree.
Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of Cuban artists protesting against a decree they say could stifle creativity and increase censorship.
Members of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award-winning Museum of Dissidence, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, are among those arrested and whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Performance artists Tania Bruguera was also detained.
Index fears for the artists’ well-being following reports of threats of violence by state security. There is a heavy police presence at the homes of artists who said they would be participating in the peaceful protest in front of the Ministry of Culture.
Otero Alcàntara and Nuñez Levya couldn’t make it to the Index awards ceremony in April but were in the UK to finally receive their award on 18 October at Metal arts centre in Chalkwell Hall, Southend. The Museum of Dissidence, a public art project celebrating dissent in Cuba, has constantly faced opposition, criticism and imprisonment for its art and activism.
“Luis Manuel and Yanelys have made clear that they want dialogue with the government to repeal this decree and include independent artists in the decisions that affect them. Criminalising art should never be an option. We call for the artists’ immediate release,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg.