Cuba - Spring just as sombre for independent press four years after Black Spring crackdown



    Show support for Cuba's 25 journalists at tourism trade fair in Paris

    MONTREAL, March 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Four years after the March 2003
crackdown, Cuba still has 270 prisoners of conscience including
25 journalists, which makes the island the world's second biggest prisoner for
the press after China, Reporters Without Borders said today, after staging a
protest at Cuba's stand in the international tourism fair in Paris.
    The human rights situation has shown no improvement since Fidel Castro
officially transferred power to his brother Razl on 31 July of last year. In
fact the repression has worsened since the autumn, with an increase in
attacks, searches and arrests of independent journalists.
    Some 30 Reporters Without Borders activists demonstrated today in front
of Cuba's stand at the tourism fair in Paris, unfurling banners, putting up
posters and demanding the release of the 25 journalists detained in Cuba.
Wearing black T-shirts with the words "Cuba = prison," they covered the stand
with adhesive black stripes symbolising the bars of a prison. Reporters
Without Borders also demonstrated in front of the Tunisian and Egyptian
stands.
    Whether or not they are imprisoned, Cuba's independent journalists have
been having a particularly trying March. Twenty of them, who have been held
ever since the March 2003 "Black Spring" and who are serving jail terms
ranging from 14 to 27 years, continue to be mistreated by their guards and
their health has suffered.
    Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental
(APLO), a small independent news agency, is regularly beaten by the guards at
Kilo 8 prison in the central city of Camaguey. Along with 17 other detainees,
he began a hunger strike on 7 March in protest against prison conditions and
to draw attention to his state of health, and to that of two of his
colleagues, Alfredo Manuel Pulido Lspez of the El Mayor news agency and
Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, the head of the Colegio de Periodistas
Independientes de Camaguey (CPIC). Hernandez, who is in Camaguey's Kilo 7
prison, has tuberculosis but is not receiving the necessary treatment. He has
been refusing to take food since 4 March.
    Laura Pollan Toledo complained to the interior ministry on 7 March about
the way her 64-year-old husband, Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, the
co-founder of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency, was transferred from
his prison in the western town of Aguica to a hospital where he was to be
operated. Although extremely weak, he was left in a punishment cell for three
hours and was then shackled for the transfer. The order for this to be done
was given by Capt. Emilio Cruz Rodrmguez, who was accused of "sadism" by
Pollan.
    Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, the editor of the magazine De Cuba and
Reporters Without Borders' Cuba correspondent, is still in the recovery ward
of the military hospital at Havana's Combinado del Este prison, after
undergoing three operations in December 2005. He is serving a 20-year sentence
which he received in 2003.
    Ramsn Velazquez Toranso of the Libertad new agency, who has been detained
since 23 January of this year, was transferred to a forced-labour camp in the
eastern province of Las Tunas on 3 March. When his wife and daughter asked why
he had been transferred, they were told it was "on the orders of State
Security." He is serving a three-year prison sentence for being a
"pre-criminal social danger."
    Ahmed Rodrmguez Albacia of the Jsvenes sin Censura news agency was
arrested by State Security on 2 March as he was going with some other young
people to an exhibition in Havana. Officials threatened him with imprisonment
before letting him go. He was held for 24 hours last September, and was
detained again from 4 to 12 December at State Security headquarters.
    Cubanacan Press editor Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, the Reporters Without
Borders - Fondation de France Cyber-Freedom laureate in 2006, was assaulted on
2 March in Santa Clara by State Security officials led by Lt. Yuniel
Monteagudo Reina and four members of the Association of Combatants of the
Cuban Revolution. He was briefly held in a police station after the attack,
which left him with bruises to the head and face.

    Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press
freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has
representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has
more than 120 correspondents worldwide.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Canadian office representative,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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