Independent journalist Claudia Márquez Linares released
Claudia Márquez Linares, who earlier this month brought out a new issue of the independent magazine De Cuba, was freed after being held for two hours. She told Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency she had been taken to the offices of the 6th police unit in the Mariano neighbourhood of Havana and told that she could not publish any further issues of the magazine. "They said I would have to face the consequences if I did." The police also told her she had not been arrested as a threat but as a "warning" not to work as a journalist any more. She said on her release that she would continue to do so however.
29.10.2003 - Reporters Without Borders today voiced deep concern about the state of health of two independent journalists and four other dissidents who began a hunger strike on 18 October in the Holguín provincial penitentiary in central Cuba, where they are all held, to protest against the placing of Iván Hernández Carrillo, another independent journalist, in a "punishment cell" the previous day.
The six hunger strikers are journalists Adolfo Fernández Sainz and Mario Enrique Mayo and dissidents Antonio Díaz Sánchez, Alfredo Domínguez Batista, Angel Moya Acosta and Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique.
"This new hunger strike is prompted by the deplorable conditions in which journalists and prisoners of conscience are being held," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. Hernández Carrillo was put in a punishment cell just for protesting against the refusal of the prison authorities to give him the treatment he needs for his high blood pressure, the relatives of fellow detainees said.
Several imprisoned journalists have complained about the lack of medical treatment. Fernández Sainz, Mayo and Hernández Carrillo already staged a hunger strike in August to protest against prison conditions.
Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about Claudia Márquez Linares, the editor of the bimonthly dissident magazine De Cuba and Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent. According to information received by the organisation, she was at the home of Laura Pollán, the wife of imprisoned journalist Hector Maseda Gutiérrez, yesterday when security agents arrived and threatened to arrest her for "contempt" if she refused to come with them. They said they just wanted to "chat" with her for a few hours.
Publication of De Cuba halted after the arrest in March of its founders, Ricardo González and Raul Rivero, but Márquez Linares managed to bring out a new issue on 1 October. By harassing her now, the authorities are again trying to put a stop to the circulation of independent news and information, Reporters Without Borders said.
Hunger strikers Fernández Sainz and Mayo are serving sentences of 15 and 20 years respectively. Like Hernández Carrillo, Fernández Sainz worked for the independent news agency Patria. He was also a correspondent for the Russian human rights news agency PRIMA News. Mayo worked for the Félix Varela independent news agency. The other hunger strikers, Díaz Sánchez, Domínguez Batista, Moya Acosta and Ramos Lauzurique, are serving terms of 20, 14, 20 and 18 years respectively.
Domínguez Batista’s wife Melba Santana and Mayo’s wife Maidelin Guerra were received by a prison official when they went to the prison on 27 October. He told them Hernández Carrillo was being punished for showing disrespect to a guard. Under the rules, the punishment could last three months. He could then be transferred to another prison. According to Santana, a "punishment cell" is a very small one with no light or ventilation.
Santana said her husband and the other five are continuing their hunger strike. None of them was allowed to telephone their family on 28 October as these calls are only permitted when they "respect the rules." Fernández Sainz’s wife Julia Nuñez said she was worried about her husband’s health as he already seemed very thin the last time she was allowed to visit him, on 7 October. She will not be allowed to make another visit until 3 January.
Fernández Sainz and Mayo began their previous hunger strike together with Hernández Carrillo on 15 August to demand the right of inmates with chronic illnesses to receive medicines and an adequate diet. They called off the strike on 25 August when the authorities agreed to provide Mayo with a diet appropriate to his state of health. Fernández Sainz lost 15 kg in the course of the strike.
Independent journalists Manuel Vázquez Portal, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and Normando Hernández González, who are in Boniatico prison in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, also began a hunger strike on 31 August in protest against prison condition. As a result, they were transferred to another prison.
Cuba is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists, with 30 currently detained. Twenty-six of them were arrested along with 50 dissidents in an unprecedented crackdown in March. In a ranking of 166 countries worldwide according to respect for press freedom, published by Reporters Without Borders on 20 October, Cuba was in second from last position, ahead only of North Korea.