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Cuba15 May 2009

Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

Reporters Without Borders has learned that dissident journalist Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet, a reporter for the Habana Press news agency, was sentenced to three years in prison on 12 May. Arrested on 18 April on a charge of “disrespect for authority,” he had been transferred to a prison on 10 May. The press freedom organisation does not expect his appeal to be successful.

“Hastily tried just two days after being jailed, Du Bouchet has little chance of having his sentence quashed on appeal as it was due above all to his activities as a dissident journalist,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The lawyer who filed the appeal on his behalf was not even able to attend the trial.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Du Bouchet’s imprisonment brings the number of journalists detained in Cuba to 24. He is the fourth journalist to be jailed since Raúl Castro took over as President of the Council of State in July 2006. Despite the transition, Cuba still holds its position as the world’s second biggest prison for journalists.”

14.05.09 - Dissident journalist facing jail term on “disrespect” charge

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of independent journalist Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet, who was arrested after a verbal exchange with a policeman in Artemisa (in Havana province) on 18 April. Du Bouchet, who is a reporter for Habana Press, an independent news agency, was previously jailed from August 2005 to August 2006 for a similar reason.

“The brakes have been applied to the initial moves towards more openness adopted by Raúl Castro after his formal installation as president in February 2008 and this is the context in which Du Bouchet has been jailed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Dissident journalists are again finding it hard to get access to the Internet in hotels. They are being constantly harassed by State Security agents.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The regime has resumed cracking down after trying to acquire more respectability with the international community. It will not be able to play this double game for long.”

A total of 24 journalists are currently detained in Cuba. Since the July 2006 transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl Castro, three journalists have been arrested and jailed under an article in the Cuban criminal code that allows the authorities to imprison someone for representing a “pre-crime social danger,” even though they have committed no crime.

Little is known about the circumstances of Du Bouchet’s arrest except that he was taken to the police station in Artemisa after an exchange for words with a police officer. He was transferred on 10 May to Melena 2 prison, to the south of the capital, where he is awaiting trial on a charge of “disrespect for authority.” According to the criminal code, he faces a possible sentence of between one and four years in prison.

Because of his dissident journalistic activities, Du Bouchet has been threatened with jail several times since his release in August 2006.

Meanwhile, according to the Payolibre website, State Security agents went to the Havana home of independent journalist Lisbán Hernández Sánchez on 7 May and warned him that he could be jailed for four years as a “pre-crime social danger.” Aged 27, Hernández functions as a press officer for the Comisión Martiana, a dissident group.

Nineteen of the 24 journalists currently in prison in Cuba were arrested during the March 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown and were given sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years in prison solely because of their views. One of them, Ricardo González Alfonso, editor of the magazine De Cuba and Reporters Without Borders correspondent, is due to be released in 2023.

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