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Cuba26 March 2002

Journalists’ association targeted by secret police

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) protested to the Cuban government today against the harassment of members of the Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists’ Association by state security police and called on it to officially recognise the organisation.

"The government cannot criticise independent journalists for supposedly not being trained while at the same time banning the Association from giving journalism courses to its members," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to interior minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra.

RSF learns that state security police moved on 21 March to halt one of the Association’s journalism classes in Havana by stopping three independent journalists (Jorge Olivera Castillo, Dorka Céspedes Vela and Omar Rodríguez Saludes) as they were on their way to the house of the Association’s president, Ricardo González Alfonso. Two other journalists already at the house (Carmelo Díaz Fernández and Victor Manuel Domínguez García) were intercepted as they left by a policeman who warned them the classes were illegal. Later, Association member Iván García Quintero was interrogated by two state security police about its activities. He was summoned by police for the same reason on 10 October last year.

Similar incidents occurred at the end of last October. Nine journalists were warned by the authorities not to attend the courses or help organise them. The Association notes however that nothing in the country’s penal code outlaws the freedom to teach. In Cuba, where the Constitution says "freedom of expression and the media is subordinate to the goals of a socialist society," only a government-controlled media is allowed. A hundred or so independent journalists, grouped into about 20 press agencies and other associations not recognised by the government, are constantly harassed and since 1995, about 50 journalists have fled abroad.

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