In Cuba, any journalist who does not work for the official media is considered to be an “enemy of the state” or a “mercenary”. The changeover at the summit of the state between the Castro brothers and the promises made by Cuba in relation to human rights at the Non-Aligned Summit in Havana have unfortunately done nothing to alter this state of affairs.
There are currently 23 of them who have paid with their freedom for having founded an independent news agency, written for a dissident review or spoken to a media in the Cuban diaspora. Some are serving prison sentences of 14-27 years. Others are being held without trial. Another, despite being put on trial, has never been told what his sentence was. All of them however suffer the same overcrowding, appalling prison conditions and mistreatment from the prison authorities that are the lot of more than 300 prisoners of opinion on the island.
In 2006, Cuba is still the second biggest prison in the world for journalists after China. Three years ago it was the first, following an unprecedented crackdown which saw the arrest of 27 journalists, speedily tried and sentenced for alleged collaboration with the United States against “Cuba’s economy and national independence” under the terms of the 88 law or “gagging law”. Seven of these journalists who were victims of the “black spring” have since had their sentences suspended for health reasons, including Raúl Rivero and Manuel Vázquez Portal who have both gone into exile abroad.
For all that, the regime has never loosened its grip on the independent press. The daily experience of dissident journalists is of harassment, summonses and sudden periods in the custody of State Security (the political police). Three were arrested in 2005 and a fourth in May 2006. The “justice system” has never formally charged them.
Reporters Without Borders is appealing for people to sign a petition calling for the release of Cuba’s 23 imprisoned journalists.