SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 05, 2015

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Loss of Position

Institution(s):International School of Film and Television

Region & Country:Americas | Cuba

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 30, 2014, Boris Gonzalez Arenas, a professor at Cuba’s International School of Film and Television (EICTV) and coordinator of the school’s humanities department, was reportedly arrested and detained by Cuban  police after attempting to attend a free expression-themed event in Havana.  Shortly after his release, he was fired from his position at EICTV. 
Professor Arenas had gone to Havana’s Revolution Square to attend a performance by artist Tania Bruguera of her play titled Tatlin’s Whisper. One day before the play was scheduled to take place, however, Bruguera had been arrested, and the performance was cancelled.  Unaware of Bruguera’s arrest, Professor Arenas and several others arrived at Revolution Square and were taken into custody by security officials.  Professor Arenas was reportedly released after three days.  On January 5, 2015, Professor Arenas was fired from his position at EICTV.  EICTV administrators claimed that his termination was not related to his attempt to attend the performance in Revolution Square, but rather for his publication of “articles critical of the state and its leaders.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest, detention and discharge of a scholar in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as those rights are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Imprisonment and retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.