It was reported on 2 September that Fabio Prieto Llorente had ended his hunger strike. His mother and sister were able to visit him on 30 August.
24.08.2004 - Jailed journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente on third hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders is concerned by the state of health of journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente, who has been on hunger strike since 11 August to protest against his prison conditions.
"It is the third time since the beginning of the year that the journalist has been driven to take this course," said the international press freedom organisation, reiterating that it held the Cuban government responsible for his state of health.
"In Cuba, journalists suffer a double injustice: being imprisoned for doing their job and being held in appalling conditions," said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, which is demanding the immediate release of all journalists held in Cuban jails.
"The release of three journalists in June and the recent transfer of three others to prisons nearer their homes does not amount to an improvement in the situation for the press, given that 26 journalists remain in prison and the state still has a news monopoly", said the organisation.
"On the other hand these latest moves do testify to the effectiveness of pressure brought to bear by the international community. It should therefore be maintained until the authorities in Havana respect press freedom," the organisation concluded.
With 26 journalists in its jails, Cuba is the second largest prison in the world for the profession, after China with 27. President Fidel Castro features on Reporters Without Borders’ list of 38 press freedom "predators".
Third hunger strike
Clara Lourdes, sister of the imprisoned journalist, said on 19 August 2004 that Llorente had been on hunger strike since 11 August to protest against his transfer to a cell with common-law prisoners. The prison authorities make use of these prisoners, offering them privileges for harassing political prisoners. Llorente went on hunger strike twice previously for the same reasons, in January and July.
Correspondent for the banned Havana Press agency in Juventud Island in the south-west and for the former news site cubafreepress.org, Llorente was arrested on 19 March 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He has had little contact with his family since then. He has been transferred three times and is now in "Kilo 8" prison in Camagüey, more than 700 kms from Juventud Island, where his family lives.
Held with common-law prisoners, Llorente suffers from violent headaches as a result of the constant noise in the prison. He has said a radio is left on continuously close to his cell to prevent him from sleeping. He has detailed the "inhumane" conditions he suffers, including ill treatment, lack of medical attention, poor food, denial of the right to walking and being in the fresh air of several days at a time. In July, after two months cooped up almost entirely inside he said he suffered from joint pain.
Very limited improvements
In June this year, journalists Carlos Alberto Dominguez, Carmelo Diaz Fernández and Manuel Vázquez Portal were allowed to leave prison on licence for health reasons. In theory, they should return to prison once their health improves.
At the start of August, journalists Pedro Argüelles Moran, Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, and Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández were moved to prisons closer to their families. These improvements are however very limited. The majority of the 26 jailed journalists are held hundreds of kilometres from their homes. Given the country’s transport problems, travel to visit them is an ordeal for families, who are restricted to one visit every three months, instead of every three weeks.
The journalists are mostly locked up with common-law prisoners, sometimes with dangerous inmates. They are kept under stress, subjected to psychological pressure and humiliation and are deprived of proper nourishment and adequate medical attention as well as regular contact with families and refused the right to religious practice.
The state of health of journalist and economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, sentenced to 20 years, is giving rise to particular concern. His family says he is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and cancer that was detected in February 2004. He can barely eat. Initially treated at the Carlos J. Finlay of Havana military hospital, he was moved on 12 August to the infirmary at Combinado del Este prison in Havana province before Hurricane Shirley hit the area. Despite promises, as of 19 August he had still not been returned to the military hospital.
Twenty-five of Cuba’s 26 jailed journalists were arrested in March 2003 during Cuba’s "black spring" along with around 50 dissidents. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years.