CPJ welcomes the impending release of two Cuban journalists

New York, February 15, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes news of the impending release of two Cuban independent journalists. Both were imprisoned during a massive crackdown against Cuban dissidents and the independent press almost five years ago.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s foreign minister, announced today that Cuban authorities would release seven prisoners. Imprisoned journalists José Gabriel Ramón Castillo and Alejandro González Raga who have been imprisoned since March 2003, are among those said to be released, according to reports in the Spanish media and CPJ sources. Ramón Castillo and González Raga are supposedly traveling to Spain soon, according to news reports and CPJ interviews.

“We are relieved by the news that José Gabriel Ramón Castillo and Alejandro González Raga will be released,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “However, we are very concerned about the other 22 independent journalists who are still imprisoned in Cuba, and urge the authorities to immediately release all those still being held.”

The announcement by the Spanish government came on the heels of a meeting between representatives from the Spanish and Cuban governments on Monday in Madrid. Moratinos told Spanish reporters “the decision was made unilaterally by the Cuban authorities and we are very satisfied.” In March 2007, a CPJ delegation met with Trinidad Jimenez, Secretary of State for Ibero America at the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and provided her detailed information on the status of Cuban imprisoned journalists.

Ramón Castillo, director of the news agency Instituto Cultura y Democracia Press in eastern Santiago de Cuba, and González Raga, a freelance reporter from the central Camagüey province, were jailed during a massive crackdown in March 2003. After perfunctory, closed-door trials, Ramón Castillo was handed a 20-year prison sentence, and González Raga was given 14 years under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for acting against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” They reported on news ignored by Cuba’s official media, and filed stories by phone and fax to overseas news outlets and Web sites.

The health of both journalists had seriously deteriorated since their imprisonment, CPJ research found.

With 22 other journalists behind bars, Cuba continues to be one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, second only to China. Nineteen of the journalists were detained in March 2003.