CPJ concerned by reports of mistreatment of jailed journalists

New York, April 6, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that one jailed independent Cuban journalist has been beaten, a second has been denied medical treatment in prison, and a third has been threatened with detention for her writing.

On March 28, independent journalist Normando Hernández González was thrown down a flight of stairs by a prison guard, the President of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, Juan Carlos González Leiva, told CPJ. Other guards then dragged Hernández down a hall and locked him in a cell for seven hours, said González Leiva, who spoke to the prisoner by telephone on March 29. Hernández suffered multiple bruises and a sprained ankle.

González Leiva said that previously guards have twisted Hernández’s arms and beaten the soles of his feet with a wooden board. The beatings came after Hernández demanded medical attention, refused to stand in line, and protested his incarceration with common criminals, González Leiva said.

Hernández, from the press group Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey, was sentenced in March 2003 to 25 years in prison. He is serving his sentence at the Kilo 5½ Prison in Pinar del Río, 435 miles (700 kilometers) northwest of his home in Camagüey. His health has deteriorated in prison, González Leiva said.

Independent journalist Oscar Mario González, who has been held without charge since July 2005, has been denied medical treatment for chronic gastritis and high blood pressure, his wife Mirta Wong told CPJ. González was transferred January 18 from the Havana headquarters of the Technical Department of Investigations to Havana Prison 1580. Since then he has not been examined by a doctor or received any medication, Wong said. She said she has been forbidden from taking him medicine. Prison officials say González cannot be treated until they receive a file containing his judicial and medical history. Authorities have told Wong that the file has been misplaced.

González worked for the news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, whose director, Ana Leonor Díaz Chamizo, was detained March 25 by two plainclothes police for an alleged traffic violation. Díaz told CPJ she was taken to a police station in Havana and held in an empty room for almost three hours. Two state security officials later questioned her about her work, and threatened to send her to prison if she did not stop writing about independent journalists.

“We are alarmed by the treatment of these two jailed journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on Cuban authorities to immediately release all 24 journalists currently in jail, and end the persecution of all journalists.”