Cuba, historically one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, has returned to CPJ’s prison census after a one-year absence. Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press, was imprisoned in September after he started looking into why an international shipment of medicine was allowed to go bad, according to news reports.
CPJ Special Report
• Journalist imprisonments hit record high worldwide
In this recorded phone conversation with Hablemos Press (in Spanish), Martínez Arias describes the inhumane conditions in the Havana jail where he is being held. He spent the first few days of his imprisonment sleeping on the floor of a 14-by-6 meter cell that was packed with more than 30 other inmates.
Cuban authorities have talked about reform and, in fact, they have mostly abandoned the long-term imprisonment of prominent journalists. But a 2011 CPJ special report found that authorities have simply changed tactics–using short-term detentions and ongoing harassment of journalists–to achieve the same strategic goal–silencing dissent and independent reporting.
Martínez Arias had done the sort of nuts-and-bolts reporting that everyone around the world should be able to count on from journalists. In 2009, for example, he helped expose a cholera outbreak in Granma province.
Recently released prisoners told Hablemos Press that Martínez Arias is now kept in solitary confinement as punishment for a hunger strike he began in November. In the phone recording, Martínez Arias calls on Cuban authorities to declare the jail uninhabitable.
To his appeal, we’d like to add one more: Free Calixto Ramón Martínez Arías now.