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Cuba6 December 2004

Fourth journalist released

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release today for health reasons of Jorge Olivera Castillo - the fourth independent journalist to be freed in the past eight days - and voiced the hope that the Cuban authorities will free the other 22 journalists still detained in Cuba.

Of the 75 dissidents detained in a crackdown in March 2003, seven in all have so far been freed since 29 November. The three other journalists to have been released are Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Raúl Rivero and Edel José García Díaz.

In a statement on 30 November, Reporters Without Borders called on the Cuban government to show a real commitment to democratisation by "putting an end to the state monopoly of news and information."

The organisation also called on the European Union to maintains its close relations with Cuba’s dissidents and to continue to condition its relations with the Cuban government on an "improvement in the situation of human rights and political freedoms" and respect for democratic pluralism.

Olivera has serious gastric problems and eye trouble caused by glaucoma and high blood pressure. Human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez of the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) told Agence France-Presse that, of all the imprisoned detainees, Olivera was among those who were in worst shape.

Sánchez added: "There may be one or two more releases in the hours or days to come, but there won’t be any massive release of prisoners of conscience."

Aged 41 and director of the Havana Press independent agency, Olivera was arrested at his Havana home on 18 March 2003 and was given a summary trial along with three other journalists two weeks later. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for writing articles for the website and the Spanish magazine Encuentro that were considered under law 88 to be "against national independence and Cuba’s economy."

A former employee of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), Olivera was a TV news editor for 10 years. He tried to leave Cuba on a raft in 1992, but was caught and detained for three days. He then joined the ranks of the dissidents and set up Havana Press with two other journalists in 1995.

More information about Olivera’s arrest, trial and prison conditions

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