Press freedom worsened in 2005 with a new crackdown on dissidents during the summer that included three journalists, who joined 20 others imprisoned since the wave of arrests in March 2003.
Cuba is still the world’s second biggest prison for journalists. Seven were freed in 2004 and two in 2005, but the past year saw the arrest of Oscar Mario González Pérez, of the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, in Havana on 22 July. He was charged under law 88 on protection of “the Cuban economy and national independence” but was not tried. A few days earlier, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, who worked for the websites Payolibre and Nueva Prensa Cubana as well as Radio Martí, was jailed for “disturbing the peace.”
Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Fernández, of the Havana Press news agency, was sentenced to a year in prison on 9 August for “civil disobedience” and “resisting arrest.” The same day, Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero, of Nueva Prensa Cubana, was given a seven-month suspended jail sentence. He was imprisoned on 11 October when he resumed working.
The mental and physical health of many of the 20 journalists jailed since the March 2003 crackdown seriously declined in 2005. They were being held in poor conditions and most were very demoralised. Poet and journalist Raúl Rivero, freed in November 2004, wrote an article in the Spanish daily El País supporting them. Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona staged a 25-day hunger strike, showing the increasing desperation of the imprisoned journalists.
Independent journalists in Cuba are constantly hounded by the regime, by beatings, eviction from their homes and frequent summonses by the police when for several hours they are insulted and threatened with imprisonment.