December 31, 2008
President of the
315 Lexington Ave.
Via facsimile: (212) 779-1697
Dear President Castro,
The Committee to Protect
Journalists is writing to you on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban
Revolution to renew its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all journalists jailed in your country. With 21 reporters and
editors unjustly incarcerated,
On Monday, CPJ sent more than 500 appeals to the Cuban government asking for the release of Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, recipient of CPJ's 2008 International Press Freedom Award, and the 20 other journalists who are behind bars in Cuba. Maseda Gutíerrez, 65, is the oldest imprisoned Cuban journalist. Incarcerated during the government's March 2003 crackdown on political dissidents and the independent press, he was given a 20-year prison sentence.
petitions were sent to the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in
Gutiérrez was detained along with 28 other independent journalists while the
world's attention was focused on the
n 2007, one more journalist was jailed. Freelance reporter Oscar Sánchez Madan, 46, was convicted of "social dangerousness," a vague pre-emptory charge contained in Article 72 of the penal code, following a one-day trial, and was given the maximum sentence of four years in prison.
The imprisoned journalists are held in inhumane conditions, and many suffer deteriorating health, according to CPJ research. At home, their families, unable to work, scrape for basic necessities while being regularly watched and often harassed by state authorities, CPJ found in "Cuba's Long Black Spring," a special report released in March.
CPJ research shows that over the past five
years, the Cuban government has used jailed journalists and other dissidents as
political leverage, sporadically releasing a few in exchange for international
concessions. Last February--just months after
While we welcome the release of any imprisoned journalist, we are distressed that they would be used as bargaining chips. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all 21 jailed journalists. The imprisonment of journalists in reprisal for their independent reporting violates international law, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by your government this year, which provides "the right to freedom of expression."
you became president, there have been significant economic, agricultural, and
administrative reforms in