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    Independent journalist sentenced to two years’ house arrest

    CUBA: Independent journalist sentenced to two years’ house arrest

    New York, November 8, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists
    condemns the sentence of two years’ house arrest handed down by a Cuban
    court to a journalist who reported on a dengue fever outbreak that the
    authorities censored.

    Journalist Guillermo Espinosa Rodríguez of the independent agency
    Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO) was convicted by a court in the
    eastern city of Santiago de Cuba on the uniquely Cuban charge of “social
    dangerousness.” The authorities often use this vaguely worded charge to
    silence critics. Under article 72 of the Cuban Penal Code, “any person
    shall be deemed dangerous if he or she has shown proclivity to commit
    crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with
    the norms of socialist morality.” It is punishable by up to four years
    in prison.

    Espinosa Rodríguez had been covering an outbreak of dengue fever in
    Santiago de Cuba since July. Authorities suppressed news of the outbreak
    which was not reported in the official press. He had been detained for a
    few hours at least three times during the last three months, and warned
    that he would go to jail if he did not stop writing “lies,” his cousin
    Diosmel Rodríguez told CPJ. Espinosa Rodríguez was fired by the
    government from his job as a nurse three months ago because of his
    writing, CPJ sources said.

    Espinosa Rodríguez was last detained on October 26 by State
    Security agents and kept for 12 days at their headquarters in Santiago
    de Cuba, according to CPJ sources. He was released on Tuesday after a
    45-minute trial.

    “It is outrageous that the Cuban authorities would seek to censor
    an outbreak of a deadly disease and punish a journalist for performing a
    vital public service by exposing it,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel
    Simon. “We demand that Cuban authorities lift the house arrest order
    against Guillermo Espinosa Rodríguez, and release the other 24
    journalists unjustly imprisoned today in Cuba.”

    Diosmel Rodríguez told CPJ that the sentence allows his cousin to
    leave his home to go to work, but bars him from attending public
    gatherings and from leaving Santiago de Cuba. The court also forbade
    Espinosa Rodríguez from practicing journalism and ordered him to work at
    a state-controlled office, APLO said according to the Miami-based news
    Web site CubaNet. Espinosa Rodríguez was warned that if he did not
    comply with the terms of his house arrest, he would be forced to serve
    his sentence in prison, according to Rodríguez.


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