Imprisoned journalist on hunger strike

New York, August 24, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply worried about the health of imprisoned journalist Adolfo Fernández Saínz, who began a hunger strike last week to protest the mistreatment of another imprisoned dissident.

Fernández Saínz began the strike on Friday, after learning that imprisoned dissident Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique had been beaten by a prison officer on August 17 and later placed in a punishment cell, according to his daughter, Joana Fernández Núñez. He will continue his hunger strike until Ramos Lauzurique is taken out of the punishment cell, she said.

Fernández Saínz, 57, one of 24 independent Cuban journalists now imprisoned, is currently at the Holguín Provincial Prison in eastern Holguín Province, hundreds of miles from his home in Havana. His wife is entitled to visit three times per year; she and other family members may visit another four times per year.

A journalist with the independent news agency Patria, Fernández Saínz was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2003 for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” This is his fourth hunger strike to demand adequate food and medicine or to protest the mistreatment of other imprisoned journalists or dissidents.

Fernández Saínz suffers from several ailments and has lost considerable weight, his family has said. His wife, Julia Núñez Pacheco, told CPJ in April that he was 25 pounds below his normal weight. In December 2004, a medical checkup revealed that he had pulmonary emphysema, hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, and a small kidney cyst, Núñez Pacheco said.

“We are very worried about the health of our colleague, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, who has been imprisoned for almost two and a half years solely for exercising his right to express his views,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We renew our calls on the Cuban government to release all imprisoned journalists immediately and unconditionally.”