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Recalling Laura Pollán, leader of Cuba's Ladies in White

Pollán leads the Ladies in White in March 2011. (AP/Javier Galeano)

Cuban human rights defender Laura Pollán, who died Friday from respiratory complications at a Havana hospital, fought a mighty battle against the Cuban government for almost a decade. Pollán, 63, leaves behind her husband, the award-winning independent journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, and a daughter. She also leaves a legacy of determination, courage, and creativity. Her powerful belief in justice was ultimately rewarded when dozens of wrongly imprisoned dissidents and journalists, including her husband, were freed from prison over the last two years, in large part due to her efforts.

October 17, 2011 2:36 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba

Assisting journalists in Cuba: Hurdles in prison and beyond

CPJ's Journalist Assistance program helped support the families of Cuban journalists held in jails like this one on the outskirts of Havana. (Reuters/Claudia Daut)

In mid-2006, CPJ's Journalist Assistance program began sending regular remittances to the families of independent Cuban journalists in prison. By CPJ's count, of the 29 journalists jailed during a massive crackdown in 2003, 24 were still in prison at the time--making Cuba the world's second-worst jailer of journalists in the world. The remittances, sent monthly, helped families cover travel expenses to the prisons--sometimes two days away on shabby buses--and basic maintenance for the jailed editors and reporters--ranging from food staples like rice and beans, to clothes, bowls and spoons, to aspirin and specialized medications, all unavailable behind bars. At the time, I was the Research Associate for the Americas program, and my job was to contact families and catalog urgency and needs.

Blog   |   Cuba, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe

CPJ's exiled journalists survey: Behind the numbers

Berhane (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

In 2007, my colleague Karen Phillips suggested we do something to mark World Refugee Day. Initially planning to publish a brief statement, I set about reviewing our data for background, checking in with older journalist cases about their current situation and looking broadly for trends to highlight. As the number of cases began counting into the hundreds, it became clear that what we had was a new indicator of press freedom conditions. Today, we're marking our fifth year of publishing the CPJ survey of journalists in exile, which is based on 10 years of data on 649 cases. 

Blog   |   Cuba

The best day of the last 2,684: A Cuban prisoner deported

When I awoke on the morning of July 8, 2010, in the Guamajal Prison in Villa Clara, I couldn't have imagined that five days later I was going to be landing at Barajas International Airport in Spain, accompanied by five of my comrades.
May 31, 2011 3:23 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba

From a Cuban youth movement, to journalism, to jail

I joined the political civilist youth movement in 1991. Curiously, what I remember most from that period is how my apprehensions led me to disguise myself with a hat and glasses when traveling from my town of Artemisa to Havana to meet with other activists. These feelings of fear, defenselessness, and even blame, are common to those who live in Cuba, stifled by oppression and numbed by endless totalitarian propaganda.

May 25, 2011 10:40 AM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba

Cuban journalist Fernández Saínz: I was a reporter in prison

Fernández Saínz reported the stories of his fellow prisoners from inside a jail like this one on the outskirts of Havana. (Reuters//Claudia Daut)

I went to prison for practicing independent journalism in Cuba. As soon as you get there, you must prepare yourself to narrate the horrors of the hellhole you've ended up in. And Cuban prisons are horrendous. But the horrors start not one step back in the penal tribunal, not two steps back with the police chief, but three steps back, with the Cuban penal code, which reflects the social decomposition of post-Soviet Cuba. The government's legal response to a wave of robberies (and to a similar wave of political unrest) is to make sentences more severe. Are they trying to punish the innocent? No, they want to "save the revolution," and since "the end justifies the means," toughness is expected from the police and from prosecutors, who are judged on their ability to quickly resolve cases; and from judges, who grow accustomed to handing down harsh sentences. In such a way, they get used to tough sentencing as they continue to lose their humanity.

Blog   |   Cuba

For Cuban blogger Sánchez, a government 'distinction'

Yoani Sánchez at home in Cuba. (Reuters)

Acclaimed Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez has had her share of honors lately. Last year alone, her blogging, which offers a personal and critical view of life in Cuba, was honored by the Dutch Prince Claus Fund, the International Press Institute, and the Danish Centre for Political Studies. This week, Sánchez received a very different type of distinction--from the Cuban government. She was featured on Monday night's installment of "Las Razones de Cuba" (Cuban Reasons), a state-sponsored TV program and website that chronicles perceived threats to the government and singles out independent journalists as enemies of the state. 

March 25, 2011 12:28 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba

A not so dark Cuban Black Spring anniversary

From left: Carlos Lauría, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Raúl Rivero, and Fernando González Urbaneja at CPJ's Madrid presentation of its report on the Black Spring, in March 2008.

March 18 is not a day we usually look forward to at CPJ. On this day in 2003, the Cuban government launched a massive crackdown on the independent press resulting in the jailing of 29 reporters. But this year we have reason to feel encouraged. On March 4, with the release of Pedro Argüelles Morán, the last of the Black Spring journalists was released. 

Blog   |   Cuba

Cuban journalist survives 'hell' and emerges ready to fight

Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez walks free with his wife (right), while followed by government supporters jeering his release. (Reuters/Desmond Boylan)

On March 18, 2003, our people endured one of the worst episodes in Cuba's history. The peaceable political dissident community, human rights defenders, trade unionists, and independent journalists, along with representatives of the emergent and democratic civil society--74 men and one woman--were the victims of the most absolute, merciless, and cruel government power.

March 18, 2011 2:05 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba

A new spring, and a couple's devotion blossoms anew

Pollán and Maseda, their love still rooted, are together again. (AP/Franklin Reyes)

When I wake up and sense my husband's body next to mine, I ask myself if I'm dreaming or if it is true that he has returned to our home.

Eight years have passed since 75 Cubans were uprooted from their homes for thinking differently than the governmental discourse and having the courage to express it publicly. So many days and nights of agony and suffering for their parents, wives, children, and grandchildren; so much accumulated pain. But the important thing is that they couldn't uproot our love. Our love gave us the motivation needed to undertake a tenacious and constant fight for the release of our loved ones. 

2011

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