Thursday, September 27, 2012

Call for release of independent journalist accused of insulting president

Call for release of independent journalist accused of insulting president
Published on Monday 24 September 2012.

Harassment of dissidents has never really stopped since Raúl Castro
became president in 2006 but, if they are detained, it is usually for
short spells. The arrest of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for
the independent Hablemos Press agency, could prove to be the exception
and could hark back to an era when dissidents were detained for longer

Martínez was arrested on 16 September and has been held ever since on a
charge of insulting the president, which could lead to a three-year
prison sentence.

"It is hard to see how the investigation into a spoiled consignment of
medicines that Martínez was carrying out at the time of his arrest, or
his earlier revelations about cholera and dengue, which the authorities
confirmed, could result in a charge of insulting the president,"
Reporters Without Borders said.

"This charge is totally absurd, just as any attempt to make an example
out of this case will be futile. Information of public interest should
be disseminated, discussed and debated. Such a debate is clearly lacking
in the official media, one of whose journalists is still detained while
others have chosen exile. We call for Martínez's immediate release."

Reporters Without Borders added: "The Cuban government must accept civil
society's right to ask questions and report information in accordance
with the conventions on civil and political rights it signed in 2008,
but has not yet ratified. Will the other members of the Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of
Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) remind it of the need to
respect this principle?"

Hablemos Press editor Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez tried without
success on 21 September to obtain permission to visit Martínez, who was
arrested near José Martí international airport. Dissident journalists
who were present were threatened with arrest and some were briefly detained.

According to the latest information, Martínez was transferred to Enrique
Cabrera Hospital on 20 September for treatment to blows he received to
the left eye.

Martínez is being persecuted by the authorities, who want him to go back
to Camagüey, where he was from, although he now lives and works in
Havana. In the past 10 years, he has been sent back to Camagüey ten
times, although the law on internal migration, which used to make it
hard for provincial residents to move to the capital, was relaxed at the
end of 2011.

He is the third Hablemos Press journalist to be detained this month.

Government journalists defect

The day that Martínez was arrested, Mairelys Cuevas Gómez, an editor
with the Communist Party newspaper Granma, took advantage of a working
visit to Mexico to go the US border and request asylum.

She was following the example of Luis López Viera, the sports editor of
Juventud Rebelde, another official newspaper, who asked the British
immigration authorities for asylum a month earlier, on 15 August, as the
London Olympics were ending.

Reporters Without Borders would like to hear the Cuban government's
reaction to the departure of journalists it employs, and to know more
about the fate of José Antonio Torres, another reporter for the Cuban
state media, who has been held for more than a year on an unexplained
charge of spying.,43441.html

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