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Cuba21 May 2003

Outrage over about prison conditions of newly convicted journalists

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its outrage about the appalling prison conditions which most of the 26 recently-detained, independent journalists have had to endure since being rounded up with other dissidents in March and receiving long jail terms.

The information about their conditions of detention, published on the and websites, was confirmed by the wives of several of the jailed journalists.

According to these sources, Normando Hernández of the CPIC news agency and Alfredo Pulido López of the El Mayor agency are in solitary confinement. Journalist and poet Raúl Rivero is being held in a 3-square-metre cell without any light, while the cell of independent journalist Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez has a light bulb that is always on. Gálvez, Mario Enrique Mayo of the Félix Varela agency and Adolfo Fernández Sainz of the Patria agency share their cells with inmates jailed for common crimes.

Hygiene is very poor in many of journalists’ cells, especially those of Omar Rodríguez Saludes of the Nueva Prensa agency and Ricardo González, editor the magazine De Cuba and Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent, whose cells are infested with rats. González is awaiting transfer to a wing where he will be put with inmates held for common crimes. Independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe is in poor health. His chronic hepatitis, liver insufficiency and high blood pressure are getting worse because of the lack of proper treatment.

Most of the detained journalists are allowed family visits only once every three months. A few are allowed one visit every three weeks. The authorities have even threatened some of the wives to stop the visits altogether. Raúl Rivero’s wife Blanca Reyes said these restrictions were part of a strategy to isolate the detainees. This is also reflected in the fact that many of them have been placed in provincial prisons sometimes more than 900 km from the capital.

The 26 independent journalists were part of a group of nearly 80 dissidents who were rounded up on 18 March. Accused of working with the US interests section (the US diplomatic representation in Havana) to "endanger the state’s independence or territorial integrity," they have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from six to 28 years.

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