Tenth freed Cuban reporter lands in Madrid

New York, July 22, 2010—Cuban journalist Alfredo Pulido López was released from jail and landed today in Madrid, bringing to 10 the number of imprisoned reporters freed and sent to Spain as part of an agreement between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government.

“I am extremely happy to regain my freedom, but I also feel sad for leaving my country,” Pulido López, left, told CPJ in a telephone interview. “I am committed to work on behalf of a transition to a more open society in Cuba. After seven years in prison, I sadly find that my country is still deprived of many fundamental rights.”

Pulido López, who was sentenced in March 2003 to 14 years in prison, arrived with his family around 2 p.m. local time, the journalist said. On arrival, he was driven to a hotel in Mostoles, south of Madrid, according to Cuban journalist Alejandro González Raga.

A director for the independent news agency El Mayor in the province of Camagüey, Pulido López was arrested on charges of acting against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state. Those charges, included in Article 91 of the Cuban penal code, are still in force.

“While we are relieved by the release of journalist Alfredo Pulido López, we are concerned that the provisions used to jail him and the other journalists are still in place,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas program senior coordinator. “We urge Cuban authorities to dismantle the restrictive legal framework utilized to punish independent reporting and freedom of expression.”

The church announced this month that the Cuban government had agreed to free a total of 52 dissidents arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism known as the Black Spring. Ten journalists arrested during the 2003 crackdown remain in prison, as does one other who was jailed later, according to CPJ research.

Below is a CPJ capsule report on Pulido López from CPJ’s annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

Alfredo Pulido López, El Mayor

Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Cuban authorities arrested Pulido López, director of the independent news agency El Mayor in Camagüey, in March 2003. A month later, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison under Article 91 of the penal code, accused of acting “against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.”

In 2009, the journalist was being held at Kilo 7 Prison in his home province along with more than 100 hardened criminals, his wife, Rebecca Rodríguez Souto, told CPJ. She told CPJ that she was able to visit him once a month and take food and medicine to him.

Pulido López, 49, suffered from chronic bronchitis, gastritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. In 2009, his respiratory ailments worsened significantly from the high humidity and poor ventilation, his wife said. She told CPJ that her husband was receiving medical treatment for his respiratory condition only.