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Cuba22 February 2006

New crackdown launched against the independent press

Reporters Without Borders has express concern that a renewed crackdown has been unleashed against the independent press and that independent journalists are suffering harassment.

Since the “black spring” of 2003, those journalists who are still working are subjected to constant pressure from the Cuban authorities. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has condemned this new wave of political repression since the start of 2006 that has taken the form of violence and threats towards the independent press.

“This series of persecutory measures taken against dissident journalists could very well auger a new ‘black spring’”, the press freedom organisation said.

“Nevertheless, no crackdown however far-reaching can ever completely end the existence of an independent press in Cuba,” it added, wondering, “Why do the authorities refuse to see that reality. Also why do they refuse to allow journalists to emigrate if they wish to, like Jorge Olivera, whom they would like to see leave? This attitude is both unfair and nonsensical,” it concluded.

Locked up during the March 2003 crackdown and released for health reasons on 6 December 2004, Jorge Olivera Castillo was summoned to appear on 21 February 2006, before a municipal people’s court in Havana where judges informed him that he was banned from leaving the capital.

Olivera, his wife and two children, have had a legal visa for the United States since October 2002, but the authorities unfairly refuse to allow them the right to leave.

Moreover, he is now forced to work for a work centre chosen for him by the court. He also has to appear before the state organisation which defines the country’s ideological line. If he fails to follow the orders he is given by the municipal people’s court, he will automatically be returned to prison. He is nevertheless determined to continue his work as a journalist, as he confirmed to Reporters Without Borders after the hearing.

Elsewhere, on 13 February, the independent journalist Roberto Santana Rodríguez was summoned to the police station in Marianao in the capital. After waiting for two hours he was seen by an officer, Moisés, who showed him a file containing various articles he had written. This file could be used by the authorities against the journalist, putting him at risk of imprisonment.

The president of a Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR), Armando Rivero, threatened Oscar Sanchez Madán in Havana on 17 February for having quoted his name on his programme on Miami-based Radio Martí. The journalist was previously physically attacked by paramilitaries on 21 and 23 January.

On 19 February, Gilberto Manuel González Delgado, head of the Notilibre news agency in Havana, had his home searched by a state security officer and two members of the CDR. A type-writer and articles were seized. He was threatened with being charged under the 88 Law on the “protection of Cuba’s independence and economy”, if he continued to do his job. He would face a 20-year prison term.

The Cuban authorities on 20 February 2006 banned the sale of foreign newspapers such as Hola!, Mecánica popular, Muy interesante and El País on the grounds that they are “ideologically dangerous”.



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