Press rights group calls for release of jailed Cuban journalists

By Ciaran Giles
Associated Press
March 18, 2008

MADRID, Spain (AP) –A press advocacy group called Tuesday for the immediate release of some 20 journalists serving jail terms in Cuba, five years after they were rounded up as part of a crackdown against dissidents.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said there are 22 journalists in Cuban jails including the 20 detained in 2003.

The committee’s coordinator for the Americas, Carlos Lauria, said: “This makes Cuba the country with most journalists jailed after China.”

Twenty-nine journalists were among 75 people arrested over three days in March 2003.

The 75 were accused of working to undermine Fidel Castro’s government and sentenced to long prison terms. Only a handful have been released.

“The journalists in jail have suffered serious deterioration in their health,” said Lauria. “They are subjected to inhuman conditions and their families are submitted to very strong psychological pressure.”

Lauria said the campaign was backed by a large number of writers and intellectuals including South African Nobel-winning author J.M. Coetzee and U.S. political activist and author Noam Chomsky.

Spanish novelist Antonio Munoz Molina, who attended the campaign presentation in Madrid, said it was scandalous that so many writer and intellectuals were unwilling to criticize Cuba on such a basic issue as freedom of expression.

The committee said the imprisonment of the journalists violated basic norms of international law including the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cuba signed last month.

The Cuban government says it holds no prisoners of conscience, only common criminals, and typically characterizes political opponents as U.S.-backed mercenaries and traitors.

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