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Cuba29 March 2005

Political police try to blackmail dissident journalist

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the interrogation of Oscar Mario González of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro independent news agency on 24 March in Havana by state security agents, and their attempts to blackmail him into ceasing to work as journalist.

"A Cuban journalist is yet again being harassed by the political police for the sole reason that he refuses to conform to the ’code of conduct’ imposed by the government," the press freedom organization said. "We reiterate our condemnation of these arbitrary and absurd methods aimed at silencing the island’s independent press."

González was summoned and questioned for two and half hours by state security agents on 24 March. "They told me I criticized the government too much and that they would not allow this to continue," he told Reporters Without Borders.

They offered him the possibility of being able to leave Cuba and visit his daughter, who lives in exile in Sweden, providing he stops working as a journalist. "I had an exit permit that was taken away from me," he explained. "When I was summoned on 24 March, the police told me I could get it back subject to my ceasing to practice my trade."

González rejected the offer, although he has not seen his only daughter for three years, and has not seen his grandson for seven years. "My daughter came to visit me in 2002. The policemen warned me that, if I continue to write, the next time she will be refused entry into Cuba."

González said he would not give into their blackmail "even if the price I must pay is not seeing my family again." He could therefore he summoned for further questioning at any moment. "I just describe today’s Cuban reality and the regime cannot stand that," he added.

Three of the 21 journalists who have been in prison since the March 2003 crackdown are members of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency. The three are Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez (serving a 20-year prison sentence), Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández (18 years) and José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández (16 years).



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