Cuba - After UE lifts sanctions, Cuba asked to show magnanimity towards Reporters Without Borders correspondent



    MONTREAL, June 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders appeals to
Razl Castro's government for a show of magnanimity towards the organisation's
correspondent, Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, and other imprisoned journalists in
return for the European Union's decision on 23 June to lift the political
sanctions it had imposed Cuba. The Cuban government had made this a condition
for restoring normal relations with the EU.
    "There have been a few advances in freedom of expression and information
since Razl Castro took over as Council of State president on 24 February, with
Cuban being given the right to buy their own computer equipment or enter
tourist hotels that have better Internet connections," Reporters Without
Borders said. "The dialogue begun by the Spanish government undoubtedly
contributed to this, just as it led to the release in February of independent
journalist Alejandro Gonzalez Raga and two other detainees from the 2003
'Black Spring'."
    The press freedom organisation added: "A similar gesture is now needed
with the 23 other journalists who are still imprisoned, 19 of whom have been
held since the March 2003 crackdown. The EU sanctions imposed after the
crackdown, which were suspended in 2005, have now been definitively lifted.
The Cuba government got its way, so there is no longer any excuse for
sidestepping the call for an improvement in human rights and free expression."
    As well as being the Reporters Without Borders Cuba correspondent,
Gonzalez is the founder of the Manuel Marquez Sterling journalists'
association and the independent magazine De Cuba. He was arrested on 18 March
2003 and was given a 20-year prison sentence on the absurd charge of being a
"mercenary" in the pay of the United States. He has been held in Havana's
Combinado del Este prison since the end of 2004.
    Now aged 58, he suffers from high blood pressure and cervical arthritis,
and has problems with his circulation and digestion. After a long spell in the
prison hospital and a total of four operations in 2006 and 2007, he was
returned to his cell on 27 January of this year, although he is still in very
poor health.
    His wife, Alida Viso Bello, told Reporters Without Borders on 23 June
that for the past month he has not been getting the Captopril medicine that
heart doctors prescribed for his high blood pressure, and that he is having a
lot of arthritis attacks because he does not have an appropriate chair in his
cell. Viso never got a reply to the request she submitted last February for
him to be released on health grounds.
    With a total of 23 journalists detained, Cuba continues to be the world's
biggest prison for the media after China. It is the western hemisphere's only
country that not does permit any form of media that is not under direct
government control.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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