27 February 2006
Press Group Condemns Cuba's Ongoing Harassment of Journalists
Jailed journalists lack adequate medical treatment, Committee to Protect
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- A global press advocacy group has reiterated its
condemnation of the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for continuing
to harass independent journalists in Cuba and for failing to provide
adequate medical treatment for those journalists who have been imprisoned.
In a February 24 statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ) said "it is outrageous that Cuba, which jails more
journalists than any other country in the world except China, should
continue to harass journalists even after they have left prison."
CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said Cuba now has 24 journalists
behind bars "solely for exercising their right to free expression,"
adding: "Some of them are not receiving the medical treatment that they
need. We call on the authorities to release these 24 prisoners
immediately and to stop harassing all journalists."
The CPJ cited the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo as an example of the
Castro regime's mistreatment of independent journalists. The CPJ said
the journalist was released from jail in December 2004 on medical
parole, but on February 21 a Havana municipal court ordered him to work
at a state-controlled office that the court would select. Olivera said
he was barred from attending public gatherings and from leaving Havana.
Olivera was sentenced in March 2003 to 18 years in prison during
Castro's massive crackdown on the independent media.
Another case involved imprisoned journalist José Ubaldo Izquierdo
Hernández, who has complained that he was suffering from severe stomach
problems. The CPJ said he had seen the prison doctor but has not
received adequate follow-up medical attention. Izquierdo was detained
during the 2003 crackdown on independent journalists and sentenced to 16
years in prison.
In another case of journalist intimidation, according to CPJ,
independent journalist Roberto Santana Rodríguez was summoned to a
police station in Havana on February 13 and questioned about his work.
The CPJ said an officer showed Santana a file containing articles he
wrote in 2005. Santana said he was threatened with jail if he did not
stop working as a journalist.
The CPJ and other global press advocacy groups repeatedly have condemned
Castro's regime for its mistreatment of journalists. The Paris-based
Reporters Without Borders, for example, said January 31 that it is
"dismayed and outraged" by the Cuban government's "continuing harassment
of independent journalists."
In a letter to the European Union, Reporters Without Borders said
independent journalists in Cuba are unable to work freely or defend
themselves against the Cuban government's "state repression." (See
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has joined the global
community's denunciations of the Castro regime's treatment of
journalists, issued a December 2005 statement that called for a speedy
transition to democracy in the Caribbean nation.
Rice said that although the United States is prepared to assist Cubans'
efforts to create a democratic society in their homeland, "a genuine
transition to political and economic freedom must be led by the people
of Cuba." (See related article.)
The repression of Cuba's independent journalists also is documented in
the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices --
2004. Released February 28, 2005, the report says Castro's regime
strictly censors news and information and limits the distribution of
foreign publications. The Cuba section of the report is available on
the State Department Web site.