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France - Cuba30 September 2003

Reporters Without Borders and Sin Visa set up support committee for jailed Cuban poet and journalist Raúl Rivero

More than 1,000 people attended an evening of solidarity with the Cuban people at the Rond-Point Theatre in Paris on 29 September during which a support committee was set up for jailed poet and journalist Raúl Rivero.

The meeting, called Cuba Si, Castro No, organised by Reporters Without Borders and Sin Visa and chaired by Spanish writer Jorge Semprun, highlighted the human rights situation in Cuba and called for solidarity with 75 dissidents imprisoned a few months ago for criticising President Fidel Castro’s regime.

The gathering included intellectuals, writers, historians and journalists from several countries (including Laure Adler, Michel Broué, Louis Joinet, Eduardo Manet, Robert Ménard, Edgar Morin, Christine Ockrent, Edwy Plenel and Benjamin Stora) and show business personalities (including Pedro Almodovar, Pierre Arditi, Ariane Ascaride, Catherine Deneuve, Sophie Marceau and Barbara Schulz). The meeting was arranged by producer Jean-Michel Ribes, who runs the theatre.

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After film of the 1989 drugs and subversion trial of Cuban Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa was shown, actress Deneuve (photo) opened the evening by reading an excerpt from a January 1959 speech by Castro in which he said "the time has come for guns to go on bended knee before public opinion."

Semprun added that "more than 40 years have passed and the people are still on bended knee before guns. We are here to demand that Castro keep his promise," he said, denouncing the left for playing down the truth about the Cuban regime for so long.

Cristina, the oldest daughter of Rivero, founder of the news agency Cuba Press, travelled from Miami to speak to the meeting about her father, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison. She called on people to "open your eyes" about the situation In Cuba.

Film director Almodovar issued a challenge to the Cuban leader, saying: "Mr Castro, 44 years ago, the democratic world admired you for liberating the Cuban people from a terrible dictatorship. As a humble Spanish filmmaker, may I advise you to once again behave like a revolutionary and free your people from another dictatorship - your own."

The meeting heard an update on developments in Cuba and the conditions of detention of the jailed dissidents. At the proposal of Reporters Without Borders and Sin Visa, a committee was set up to support Rivero, who won the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France Prize in 1997 and is an internationally-regarded symbol of Cuban dissidence.

The first members of the support committee, chaired by Jorge Semprun, include: Laure Adler, Pedro Almodovar, Pierre Arditi, Ariane Ascaride, Philippe Augier, Michel Broué, Pascal Bruckner, Elizabeth Burgos, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Ileana de la Guardia, Catherine Deneuve, Christophe Girard, Romain Goupil, Michel Granger, Bernard Henri-Levy, Jack Lang, Louis Joinet, Bernard Kouchner, Noël Mamère, Eduardo Manet, Sophie Marceau, Jorge Masetti, Robert Ménard, Carlos Monsivais, Edgar Morin, Christine Ockrent, Edwy Plenel, Hugues Quester, Jean-Michel Ribes, Cristina Rivero, André Rossinot, Barbara Schulz, Jorge Semprun, Yves Simon, Benjamin Stora and Antonio Tabucchi.

The committee, monitored by Reporters Without Borders and Sin Visa, will shortly act to support the dissidents by:

Bringing out a "black book" on Cuba, containing documents and reports by human rights organisations. Making a film about press freedom in Cuba before and after the 1959 revolution. Launching a media campaign aimed at tourists going to Cuba (to be done by the Les Ouvriers du paradis agency). Lobbying of the European Union by Reporters Without Borders to demand sanctions against top Cuban officials. Launching an appeal by Reporters Without Borders for more media outlets to adopt Rivero under its sponsorship programme.

Last March, while all eyes were on Iraq, Fidel Castro jailed nearly 80 dissidents for between 14 and 28 years each. Writers, journalists, human rights activists and regime opponents were thrown in prison as "counter-revolutionaries," often hundreds of kilometres from where they lived.

They were bullied, humiliated and not allowed visitors and their sentences have since been confirmed. Rivero got 20 years after a secret and hasty sham trial, where defence rights were flouted, undercover agents took the stand, long-concocted evidence (some from neighbours) was presented and where the charges were based solely on opinions expressed.

We invite people to look at the Reporters Without Borders website, and send donations to help the committee to operate and regularly come up with new ideas for action. Please make cheques payable to Reporters Without Borders, which is creating a special unit for the committee.

Thanks

Reporters Without Borders and Sin Visa would like to thank Jean-Michel Ribes and the team at the Rond-Point Theatre, as well as Jorge Semprun and all the speakers and performers who took part in the event. Also, Eric Damidot, Matthieu Alexandre and David Arnold, for their pictures; the Dutch Journalists’ Union (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten, NVJ) for the typewriters that symbolised the dissidents on the theatre stage; make-up artists Nolween Goupil and Alain Monge; Guy-Pierre Bennet; Thierry Ardisson and all the team of France 2’s Tout le monde en parle; the Nuit de Chine agency for the poster and the Ouvriers du Paradis agency for the publicity campaign that will focus on tourism to Cuba.

The team at Reporters Without Borders apologises to those who turned up but could not get into the theatre because it was full up.



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