CPJ urges acting president of Cuba to immediately release all jailed journalists
CPJ urges acting president of Cuba to immediately release all jailed
March 14, 2007
His Excellency Raúl Castro Ruz
First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers
Republic of Cuba
C/o Cuban Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY 10016-2606
Via facsimile: 212-779-1697
The Committee to Protect Journalists is asking you, as acting
president of Cuba, to immediately release all reporters, writers, and
editors imprisoned in your country. With 24 independent journalists
behind bars today, Cuba continues to be one of the leading jailers of
journalists in the world, second only to China.
Of the 24 reporters currently in jail in Cuban prisons, 22 have
been incarcerated since the government's massive crackdown on political
dissidence four years ago this week.
In March 2003, while the world's attention was focused on the U.S.
invasion of Iraq, 29 independent journalists were detained as part of a
wider crackdown on the opposition. Two weeks later, the reporters were
tried summarily behind closed doors and sentenced to terms ranging from
14 to 27 years in prison.
The Cuban government has labeled these journalists "mercenaries"
who acted against the interests of the state. This is an arbitrary and
vague charge unsupported by any evidence. In fact, a CPJ analysis of
trial documents further indicates that the journalists were prosecuted
for engaging in professional activities protected by international law.
Seven journalists have since been released on medical parole.
According to CPJ research, the 22 who remain in jail have lived their
four-year imprisonment under extremely difficult circumstances. They
suffer from continuous harassment, humiliating prison conditions, and
Journalists who were ill before being jailed have seen their health
worsen in prison, while others who were in good health have developed
illnesses. Some have additionally developed alarming mental health
problems. Various journalists have started hunger strikes to protest
poor conditions. In retaliation, prison authorities have transferred
them, limited outside contact, and withheld information about their health.
Some remain far from their homes, adding to the heavy burden on
their families. Journalists and family members have cited unsanitary
prison conditions, inadequate medical care, and an unhealthy, meager
diet. Several are in cells with common criminals; others are in isolation.
Many of the journalists are allowed family visits only once every
three months and marital visits only once every four months. Relatives
are harassed for talking to the foreign press and for protesting the
Moreover, CPJ is seriously concerned about the imprisonment of two
other journalists in reprisal for their work during this past year.
Armando Betancourt Reina, a Camagüey-based reporter for Nueva Prensa
Cubana, has been imprisoned since May, and has yet to be charged. He was
arrested while covering the evictions of dozens of families from their
homes. In November, Guillermo Espinosa Rodríguez was sentenced to two
years of home confinement on charges of "social dangerousness," and
forbidden from practicing independent journalism. He had been covering
an outbreak of dengue fever.
Since President Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to you on July
31, CPJ has documented cases of constant harassment, and detentions of
independent journalists who are still trying to report news that the
official press ignores. Furthermore, foreign journalists who are
covering a story of worldwide importance have been denied entry into
Cuba. Three weeks ago, your government announced its decision not to
renew the visas of three Havana-based correspondents. The decision,
which comes in clear reprisal for their independent reporting, could
have a chilling effect on the foreign media's ability to cover Cuba at
this crucial time.
The imprisonment of journalists in reprisal for their independent
reporting violates international law, including Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees everyone "the
right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any
media and regardless of frontiers."
We urge you to release all of the detained journalists immediately
and unconditionally, and we call on the Cuban government to respect
international guarantees for free expression and to stop persecuting the