Reporters Without Borders today launched a campaign to bring the imprisonment of 30 journalists in Cuba to the attention of the public in France and the rest of the world. Twenty-six of these journalists were arrested at the end of March and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years. The announcement was made at a press conference at the Saint-Lazare FNAC in Paris to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said a 35-second spot warning would-be tourists that news is censored and 30 journalists are in prison in Cuba will be screened in 400 cinema auditoriums in Paris and in France’s other main urban centres thanks to the Médiavision network. Screening in other European countries is to follow.
The organisation also urged members of the public to sign a petition calling for the release of Cuban journalists. The petition is available at the Reporters Without Borders website, www.rsf.org, where a special page called "Cuba, the world’s biggest prison for journalists," has been launched to mark World Press Freedom Day. Visitors to the site will find news about the jailed journalists and international reaction to their arrest and conviction as well as general information about the control and censorship of the press and journalists in Cuba.
Reporters Without Borders also announced that it was adding its name to the complaint filed by journalist Ricardo Vega, who was badly beaten by Cuban embassy staff in Paris on 24 April. This happened when some 15 Reporters Without Borders activists and prominent cultural figures chained up the entrances to the embassy and handcuffed themselves to the railings outside. Vega, as well as other journalists and Reporters Without Borders activists, were then beaten by embassy officials egged on by Ambassador Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez.
The organisation said other initiatives would follow in its campaign to obtain the release of the journalists jailed in Cuba and to focus attention on censorship there.
In another hand, the organisation welcomes the European Union’s decision to suspend consideration of Cuba’s request to join the Cotonou agreements. Announced by the European Commission on 30 April, this decision had been urged by Reporters Without Borders since 21 March, immediately after the wave of arrests in Cuba. The organisation had called for a "strong gesture" from European Union member countries to show their disapproval of the repression in Cuba.
*The Cotonou agreements grant 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (the ACP group) economic aid and preferential trade relations with the European Union.