CPJ concerned about health of two journalists on hunger strike

New York, March 16, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today about the health of two independent journalists on hunger strike in Cuba, one of them in prison.

Guillermo Fariñas, director of the independent news agency Cubacán Press, has refused food for 45 days to protest government restrictions on journalists’ access to the Internet, and is in intensive care. Jailed journalist Juan Carlos Herrera of the independent news agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental has gone without food for 13 days.

Fariñas has been hospitalized in the northern city of Santa Clara since February 7, his mother Alicia Hernández told CPJ. She said he had repeatedly lost consciousness, suffered severe headaches, and had no feeling in his limbs. He began his fast January 31.

Herrera went on hunger strike March 4 to protest living conditions and medical treatment in prison, his wife Ileana Danger Hardy told CPJ. She said he had been drinking water since Tuesday because of a preexisting kidney condition. Herrera, arrested in a widespread crackdown on the independent press in March 2003, is serving a 20-year sentence.

“We are extremely worried about the health of both journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on the Cuban government to release all 24 journalists currently jailed for their work.”