You are going to visit Cuba from 24 to 27 March, when you will meet Vice-President Carlos Lage Dávila, foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque, foreign investment and cooperation minister Marta Lomas Morales and national assembly president Ricardo Alarcón. You will also meet the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Reporters Without Borders would like to draw your attention to the fate of 21 journalists who were arrested in the March 2003 crackdown and who are still in prison. It is essential that the European Union should, whenever possible, reiterate its firm desire to see all of Cuba’s political prisoners released at once.
The journalists still in prison are Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Mijail Barzaga Lugo, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Miguel Galvan Gutiérrez, Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, José Luis García Paneque, Ricardo González Alfonso, Alejandro González Raga, Ivan Hernández Carrillo, Normando Hernández González, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Marío Enrique Mayo Hernández, José Ubaldo Izquíerdo Hernández, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, Omar Rodríguez Saludes and Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández. In a travesty of justice, they were all summarily tried and sentenced in April 2003 to sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years in prison. Their crime was to have worked as journalists for news organizations that were not authorized by the government.
Filthy cells, water not fit to drink, denial of visiting rights, mistreatment and lack of medical care although most of them are becoming more ill by the day - this is the price that these 21 men must pay for being "guilty" of trying to report the news freely and thinking differently from the government. These 21 journalists, Commissioner, will be in great danger if they kept in prison any longer.
During a visit to the European Parliament on 8 March, foreign minister Pérez Roque said his country would be ready to undertake "clear gestures" if the European Union refrained from condemning Cuba during the next session of the European Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
We urge you, Commissioner, to remind Mr. Pérez Roque of his duty and to point out to him that the "clear gestures" to which he is committed by this request include the immediate and unconditional release of all the Cuban dissidents and, in particular, the 21 journalists who were unjustly imprisoned.
Press freedom, Commissioner, is an integral part of the public freedoms that the European Union is confident of incarnating, protecting and defending. Cuba can make no demands of the European Union without complying with a fundamental condition, namely, ceasing to be the world’s second biggest prison for journalists.
We look forward to this "firm gesture" towards the Cuban authorities from you.