Abel Escobar Ramírez was released on 1 November after being held for three days at the regional headquarters of the Department of State Security in the city of Ciego de Avila. At the moment of his arrest, an officer told him he was being detained for violating Law 88, which protects "Cuba’s independence and economy." A tape-recorder and four cassettes containing information for the website nuevaprensa.org were confiscated during a search of his person. He was questioned several times about his activities and the documents he was carrying. He was released after 72 hours, the maximum period for police custody under Cuban law. He signed a statement undertaking to stop working as a journalist but he told Reporters Without Borders he did not intend to respect it.
31.10.2003 - Independent journalist arrested in the centre of the country
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of independent journalist Abel Escobar Ramírez on 29 October near Morón (350 km east of Havana) and called for his immediate release. The organisation also called for the return of documents confiscated from the home of another journalist in the same region during a search carried out the same day.
A correspondent for the independent news agency Cuba Press in the centre of Cuba, Escobar Ramírez was detained by members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) on the road between his village, Patria, and the town of Morón. He had been heading towards the home of Jesús Alvarez Castillo, another independent journalist working for Cuba Press.
He was taken to the regional headquarters of the Department of State Security (DSE), the political police, in the town of Ciego de Avila (south of Morón). The authorities asked his wife, Alina Torres Martinez, to bring some of his personal effects to him there. Alvarez Castillo said this request has made the family fear that he could be held for a long time. His family and friends have had no word of him since his arrest.
Three hours after the detention of Escobar Ramírez, DSE agents searched Alvarez Castillo’s home in Morón. More than 300 of his books and magazines were seized. He said the search was linked to his work as a journalist. He was detained by the DSE for two hours on 19 September while in Las Tunas province. Alvarez Castillo is also the Ciego de Ávila representative of the Manuel Márquez Sterling Association of independent journalists, which publishes the banned magazine De Cuba.
Cuba is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists, with a total of 30 detained. Twenty-six of them were arrested along with some 50 other dissidents during an unprecedented crackdown in March. They were given prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years, in most cases for "threat to the state’s unity and independence." Three of them, held in the eastern province of Holguín, are currently staging a hunger strike in protest against prison conditions. They are Iván Hernández Carrillo, Adolfo Fernández Sainz and Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández.
Cuba was second from last, ahead only of North Korea, in a ranking of 166 countries according to press freedom, which Reporters Without Borders published on 20 October.