Cuba: Government frees jailed journalists

New York, December 21, 1999 — Cuban state security officers today released four journalists arrested last Thursday afternoon, according to information received by CPJ. The journalists were apparently arrested to prevent them covering an anti-government demonstration scheduled for last Friday in Havana.

Sources in Cuba reported that Juan González Febles, Adela Soto Alvarez, María del Carmen Carro, and Santiago Martínez Trujillo were taken into custody at approximately 4:00 p.m. on December 16. Six other journalists — Meri Miranda, Osvaldo de Céspedes, María de los Angeles Gómez, Amarylis Cortina, Ricardo Gónzalez and Alida Viso — were placed under house arrest the following day. State security agents were posted outside their homes until early evening, when the house arrests were suspended.

Cuban authorities apparently wished to block press coverage of a peaceful protest march scheduled to coincide with the saint’s day of San Lázaro, a Catholic saint who is reputed to heal the sick and answer the prayers of the desperate. Every year, hundreds of people gather at “El Rincón de San Lázaro” in Havana, where a large statue of the saint is located. Demonstrators were expected to end their march near the site.

In a move typical of the Cuban government, journalists were rounded up ahead of time to prevent them from covering the event. Because of the lack of press coverage, it is not know if the march actually took place.

While CPJ is pleased that all ten journalists have been released, it remains outraged at the continued harassment and persecution of Cuba’s independent press.

For more information, contact Lynn Ventura, Americas program researcher at CPJ (tel 212-465-9344 ext. 118, fax 212-290-7686 or email [email protected]).