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Cuba16 March 2006

March 18, 2003 to March 18, 2006: Three years after "black spring" the independent press refuses to remain in the dark

On March 18, 2003, an unprecedented wave of repression broke over Cuban dissidents. For three days, ninety opponents of the regime were arrested on grounds that they were "agents of the American enemy." Among them were twenty-seven journalists. Nearly all of them were tried under the "88 Law" of February 1999, which protects the "national independence and economy of Cuba," and were given prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years.

This "black spring" dealt a heavy blow to Cuba’s independent press, which had started to emerge on the island in the early 1990s with the creation of small news agencies. Since the latter’s founders and directors who had been thrown in jail, many journalists preferred to give up their profession or opt for a life of exile. Did independent journalism die out in Cuba that day?

Three years after the crackdown, Reporters Without Borders wanted to take stock of the situation. Unable to send representatives to Cuba, the organization contacted journalists who were still living on the island, or in exile, members of an agency or freelancers, families of jailed dissidents and media outlets - such as Internet websites, radio stations, and publications - most of whom are based in Miami (the second largest Cuban city in the world, with close to 3 million nationals), Puerto Rico, and Madrid. Although it is difficult at present to estimate the exact number of working journalists in Cuba, and their working conditions are even more precarious in the wake of a new wave of repression that has begun to spread across the country, the unofficial Cuban press has not given up. In fact, it constitutes the top news source on the status of human rights on the island. However, its clandestine situation has forced it to be a press "from the inside for the outside", one nearly inaccessible to those whom it covers on a daily basis.

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Cuba Report

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