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Cuba9 September 2003

Independent journalist sentenced

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the sentence of three years of public service work passed on Cuban independent journalist José Manuel Caraballo by the people’s court of Ciego de Ávila province on 5 September for allegedly forging attendance certificates when he taught at a tourism training centre.

The sentence was "clearly aimed at tightening the gag on the independent press," the organisation said.

The tourism training centre’s deputy director, the secretary and another teacher were also convicted on the same charge, but Caraballo was the only one not to have his sentence commuted. He has 10 days to lodge an appeal before the people’s supreme court.

The editor of the APLA news agency in Morón (in Ciego de Ávila province), Caraballo said the trial showed that the authorities were intent on controlling his movements between his home and work and on preventing him leaving the province. "They will have to put my head in a vice, because I will carry on writing, even without hands," he said.

Reporters Without Borders said the authorities were using harassment and intimidation to maintain a climate of fear for the independent journalists still trying to practice their trade after the crackdown in March that led to the imprisonment of 26 journalists.

"Many of the journalists still are large are being summoned for questioning by the state security agency, others are receiving visits at their homes from state security agents, and all are being threatened with sentences of up to 20 years in prison if they refuse to give up their work as journalists," the organisation said.

Caraballo was summoned questioning by a state security official in Morón on 10 June. During this interrogation, he refused to sign an undertaking that he would give up independent journalism. The official reportedly responded: "Dissidence must die now." Caraballo was also summoned for questioning on 7 June and was threatened with a 20-year prison sentence if he did not stop being journalist.

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