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Cuba23 June 2005

State Security continues to harass independent journalists

Reporters Without Borders has condemned State Security harassment, intimidation and orchestrated blackmail against independent journalists Osmel Sánchez Lopez, Ernesto Roque and Ana Rosa Veitía, on 18 and 21 June 2005.

"Once again Cuban journalists have been harassed because they want to do their jobs without interference," the organisation said. "Sudden summonses to the police station, threats of imprisonment and seizing of equipment are all part of a strategy to demoralise the independent press, 21 of whom are still in jail in appalling conditions.

"When they are not actually detained, Cuban journalists operate in a kind of conditional freedom," it added.

Independent journalist, once correspondent for Radio Martí, Sánchez Lopez was summoned by the political police on 18 June, in Venezuela, Ciego de Ávila Province in central Cuba. "An officer who told me he was called Jesus questioned me for three hours. He told me to stop my activities and banned me from seeing Juan Carlos González Leyva, head of the Cuban human rights foundation," Sánchez Lopez told Reporters Without Borders.

He said I would otherwise be jailed for four years for "pre-delinquent social dangerousness". The journalist said he had not been physically mistreated but he had heard shouts, insults and threats throughout his questioning.

"Afterwards police officers drove me away in a jeep and left me in the middle of the night in the country about four kilometres from my home," said Sánchez Lopez, who does not intend to give way to the demands of State Security.

"I will continue to do my job, write articles about society in which I sometimes condemn the poor living conditions of my people." The journalist, who is a widower and is bringing up two children aged 12 and 10 alone, is dreading the next summons.

Ernesto Roque and his wife Ana Rosa Veitía, both members of the Cuban union of independent journalists and writers (UPECI), were summoned and questioned separately on 21 June in Havana by six state security agents, according to the Cubanet website. The couple were told to hand over documents relating to a meeting planned for 25 June of Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR) that Ana Rosa Veitía chairs. Police then took the couple back to their home and carried out a lengthy search, finishing by seizing a video camera, a digital camera, medicines, money and even some food. One of the agents, who introduced himself to Ernesto Roque as Reinier but told Ana Rosa Veitía that he was called Carlos, told the two journalists that the "process" in relation to them was only just beginning and warned them that the authorities would prevent the holding of the FLAMUR meeting.

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