CPJ condemns ongoing harassment of independent journalists

New York, February 24, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Cuban authorities for continuing to harass independent journalists and failing to provide adequate medical treatment for those in prison.

Independent journalist Jorge Olivera Castillo, who was released from jail in December 2004 on medical parole, was ordered by a Havana municipal court on February 21 to work at a state-controlled office that the court would select. Olivera told CPJ he was barred from attending public gatherings and leaving Havana.

Olivera was sentenced in March 2003 to 18 years in prison in a massive crackdown on the independent media. While on medical parole he has contributed to the Miami-based news Web site CubaNet and other international publications. If he does not comply with the court orders his parole could be revoked, he said.

“It is outrageous that Cuba, which jails more journalists than any other country in the world except China, should continue to harass journalists even after they have left prison,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Cuba now has 24 journalists behind bars solely for exercising their right to free expression. Some of them are not receiving the medical treatment that they need. We call on the authorities to release these 24 prisoners immediately and to stop harassing all journalists.”

On February 13, independent journalist Roberto Santana Rodríguez was summoned to a police station in Havana and questioned about his work. An officer showed Santana a file containing articles he wrote in 2005. Santana told CPJ he was threatened with jail if he did not stop working as journalist.

The wife of jailed journalist Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, director of the independent news agency Havana Press, said her husband had suffered severe headaches and progressive loss of his vision since his arrest in August 2004. Bárbara Pérez Araya told CPJ that her husband staged a nine-day hunger strike in December 2005 to demand medical attention. He was finally admitted to Julio Trigo Hospital, in Arroyo Naranjo, on January 6 where doctors are evaluating his condition.

Du Bouchet was sentenced in August, 2005 after a three-day trial to one year in jail. His family learned of his detention only after he smuggled a note out of prison. He was detained while on a reporting trip to the town of Artemisa, 38 miles (60 kilometers) from Havana, and charged with “disrespecting” the local chief of police and resisting arrest.

Santana also told CPJ that imprisoned journalist José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández had complained that he was suffering from severe stomach problems. He had seen the prison doctor but has not received adequate follow-up medical attention. Santana spoke to Izquierdo recently. Izquierdo was detained in the 2003 crackdown and sentenced to 16 years in prison.