Friday, April 30, 2010

Cuba urged to respect press freedom as repression of journalists intensifies

Cuba urged to respect press freedom as repression of journalists intensifies
30 April 2010

Amnesty International today called on the Cuban authorities to end
harassment of independent journalists following a month in which several
reporters were arbitrarily detained and intimidated for criticizing the

"Journalists who try to work independently of the state-owned media
outlets in Cuba are being targeted with repressive tactics and spurious
criminal charges - and this clampdown on freedom of expression appears
to be intensifying," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International's Americas
Director, ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

Journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias remains in detention after being
arrested on 23 April by security officials who broke into the house
where he was covering a memorial service for a prisoner of conscience.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo had died two months earlier after several weeks on
hunger strike in protest against the plight of prisoners of conscience
in Cuba.

Another journalist described the campaign of intimidation waged against
him as "psychological torture". Yosvani Anzardo Hernández, the director
of an online independent newspaper, was detained on 24 April and
questioned for over six hours over anti-government graffiti found in the
city of Holguin.

Meanwhile, news agency director Carlos Serpa Maceira was subjected to
intimidation and harassment by the Cuban authorities when he tried to
cover the weekly march by the activist group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in
White) on three consecutive weekends in April.

Members of the Damas de Blanco have been repeatedly harassed and
intimidated by government supporters, and their weekly demonstrations
were forcibly broken by police on at least two occasions.

"Criminal charges, or other forms of harassment and intimidation, must
not be brought against independent journalists, human rights advocates
or political dissidents as a result of their legitimate exercise of
freedom of expression," said Susan Lee.

There are currently 55 prisoners of conscience detained in Cuba, most of
them serving long sentences for criticizing the Cuban government and
advocating basic human rights. Among them are several independent

Several articles of the Cuban Constitution and Penal Code are so vague
that the authorities have been able to use them in a way that infringes
freedom of expression. The Cuban State also maintains a total control of
broadcast media and the press, while access to the internet is heavily

"As a result of these restrictions on freedom of expression, Cubans are
unable to share independent information without facing direct repression
from the authorities," said Susan Lee.

"Restrictions on access to the internet should be lifted and censorship
of websites containing information and views contrary to government
policies must be eliminated."

Amnesty International has urged the Cuban authorities to review all
legal provisions that unlawfully limit freedom of expression and to
release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.

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