to Protect Journalists.
COUNTRY WHOSE CONSTITUTION AND PENAL CODE specifically disallow
press freedom, independent journalists continued to face repression
from the Cuban government last year. Yet their ranks have
grown steadily, and there are now about 20 independent news
agencies in the country. In early 2001, a particularly courageous
independent journalist saw the outside of a jail for the first
time in two years.
Joel Díaz Hernández was unexpectedly released
from prison on January 17, 2001. The executive director of
the independent news service Cooperativa Avileña de
Periodistas Independientes (CAPI) began a four-year prison
sentence in 1999, after a one-day sham trial in which he was
convicted of "dangerousness," a crime unknown outside Cuba.
Díaz Hernández's family smuggled a urine sample
out of prison, which revealed that the journalist was suffering
from hepatitis. Prison authorities failed to provide him with
proper medical treatment. That same month, guards confiscated
Díaz Hernández's books and forbade his relatives
from bringing him any more.
after the release, CPJ wrote to President Fidel Castro Ruz
welcoming the news, but noting also that Díaz Hernández
can be jailed again if he returns to work as an independent
journalist. The letter stated that CPJ had "no illusions about
the measures your government will take to suppress independent
journalism." It also called on Castro to free two other independent
journalists, Manuel Antonio González Castellanos and
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who were both jailed
for allegedly expressing disrespect for Castro.
Padrón, founder of the Línea Sur Press news
agency in the province of Cienfuegos, has been in jail since
1997. González Castellanos, correspondent for the independent
news agency CubaPress in the eastern province of Holguín,
has been in jail since 1998. Both journalists have been denied
medical treatment as well as parole.
2000, repression against independent journalists intensified
in the country's eastern provinces, far from international
media scrutiny. Luis Alberto Rivera Leyva, director of the
independent agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO),
was threatened, detained, and on one occasion placed under
house arrest to prevent him from covering the trial of two
dissidents. Juan Carlos Garcell, APLO correspondent in the
eastern province of Holguín, was detained at least
three times in August, one month after he reported that employees
at a state-owned construction company had complained about
their working conditions.
also continued to restrict independent journalists' freedom
of movement. In late November, the renowned journalist and
writer Raúl Rivero was barred from traveling to the
United States for an appearance at the Miami International
Book Fair. Rivero, who is the director of CubaPress, did,
however, address the fair by telephone and in a video filmed
days before in Havana.
the notorious Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National
Independence and Economy was not applied in 2000, authorities
did use it to threaten independent journalists. Passed in
1999, the law makes it a crime to give information to the
U.S. government (whether directly or indirectly), to collaborate
with foreign media, or to possess, reproduce, or spread "subversive"
in August further underscored the government's determination
to block collaboration between Cuban independent journalists
and their foreign colleagues. On August 17, state security
agents detained French journalist Martine Jacot for more than
an hour at Havana's International Airport, just as she was
about to return to France. The agents confiscated Jacot's
video camera and two tapes, along with research documents.
Jacot had traveled to Cuba to meet with independent journalists
as a representative of the press freedom organization Reporters
two weeks later, the government detained and then expelled
Swedish journalists Birger Thuresson, Peter Göetel, and
Helena Söederqvist, who had participated in a seminar
attended by local independent journalists.
continued to restrict Internet access under an ordinance imposed
in June 1996, four months before Cuba was officially connected
to the Internet. A government commission decides which individuals
and institutions will have Internet access. So far, the commission
has only granted connections to government officials, selected
academic researchers, diplomats, tourists, and foreign entrepreneurs.
September, the government granted The Dallas Morning News
and The Chicago Tribune permission to open bureaus in Havana,
making them the first U.S. newspapers allowed into Cuba since
The New York Times pulled out in the early 1960s. These two
papers join CNN and The Associated Press as the only U.S.
news organizations with permanent bureaus on the island. While
this is a welcome development, other media outlets remain
shut out, notably The Miami Herald, whose reporters are routinely
denied visas to visit Cuba. Meanwhile, ordinary Cubans still
do not have access to international media news about their
4, a group of Madrid-based Cuban exiles launched the online
daily Encuentro en la Red (www.cubaencuentro.com). The same
group also publishes the popular quarterly magazine Encuentro
de la Cultura Cubana. Early in 2000, the official press lashed
out against the magazine, branding it a U.S. government front.
Víctor Rolando Arroyo, Unión de Periodistas
y Escritores Cubanos Independientes
a journalist, author, and member of the Unión de Periodistas
y Escritores Cubanos Independientes (UPECI), was jailed for
six months for hoarding toys. His supporters contended that
the charge came in retaliation for his reporting.
authorities [often] charge journalists with common crimes
to prevent them from becoming prisoners of conscience," said
Raúl Rivero, director of the independent news agency
CubaPress. "Arroyo was reporting daily on the emerging civil
society and on opposition activities in Pinar del Río."
8, police arrested Arroyo at his home in Pinar del Río,
on the western tip of the island, CubaPress reported. They
also searched his house and confiscated 150 toys that he had
gathered for distribution to poor children under a program
run by the humanitarian group Corriente Martiana.
trial, Arroyo's lawyer produced receipts showing that all
the toys had been bought legally at hard-currency shops. Nonetheless,
Arroyo was found guilty on January 14 and given a six-month
to his conviction, the journalist had specialized in covering
stories overlooked by the official press, such as Cuba's economic
crisis and its effects on the province of Pinar del Río.
He also reported on the Elián González case
and criticized President Fidel Castro Ruz. His stories were
published on the Web site CubaNet and broadcast on the U.S.-sponsored
was released on July 18 after completing his sentence. In
a July 25 letter to President Castro, CPJ called for the immediate
release of Cuba's three remaining imprisoned journalists.
José Orlando González Bridón, Cuba Free
security agents arrested González Bridón, a
labor activist and a journalist with the U.S.-based news service
Cuba Free Press, at his home in Havana.
then took him to the Havana headquarters of the Department
of Technical Investigations (DTI), the state security agency,
where he was questioned and released the same day.
Bridón later told Cuba Free Press that the DTI agents
repeatedly questioned him about his reporting and threatened
to charge him with libeling the Cuban state in violation of
Law 88, or the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence
and Economy. The law carries prison terms of up to 20 years
for press-related offenses. González Bridón
also said that DTI agents threatened reprisals against his
25, González Bridón's wife reported, state security
agents again arrested the journalist on his way to a meeting
in downtown Havana with the opposition leaders Oswaldo Payá,
Héctor Palacios, and Elizardo Sánchez. He was
released some three hours later.
Bridón has been writing articles for the Cuba Free
Press Web site since October 1999. According to Cuba Free
Press, the journalist was arrested five times between December
1, 1999 and January 31, 2000.
Luis Alberto Rivera Leyva, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental
Leyva, director of the independent news agency Agencia de
Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO) in the eastern province of Santiago
de Cuba, faced sustained harassment from the state security
apparatus, in a campaign to intimidate independent journalists
in the region.
12, according to the independent news agency CubaPress, state
security agents searched Rivera Leyva at the Santiago de Cuba
bus terminal, in the eastern part of the island, as he was
preparing to travel to Havana. Six days later, security agents
detained him in Havana for five hours. The agents tried to
recruit Rivera Leyva as an informer. When he rejected the
offer, they warned him to stop working as an independent journalist.
days later, on September 7, state security agents again detained
Rivera Leyva and took him to a military detention center at
Santiago de Cuba airport, where the journalist was held for
around 24 hours and was repeatedly interrogated. The agents
warned Rivera Leyva that he could be prosecuted for working
as an independent journalist. Prior to this latest detention,
Rivera Leyva's house had been under surveillance and he had
been followed for several days, his colleagues told CubaPress.
14, according to independent journalist Ricardo González
Alfonso, state security officers prevented Rivera Leyva from
entering Municipal Court No. 1, in the city of Santiago de
Cuba, where the journalist was trying to cover the trial of
a dissident. The officers warned Rivera Leyva that if he entered
the courtroom with a camera or a tape recorder, he would face
Juan Carlos Garcell, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental
correspondent with the independent news agency Agencia de
Prensa Libre Oriental in the eastern province of Holguín,
was detained three times in a week and threatened by state
security officers in the city of Sagua de Tánamo.
skipped an August 15 summons, which he considered illegal.
At 8 p.m., police agents detained him and took him to the
police station, according to local sources. Before releasing
Garcell later that evening, the head of the local State Security
Department (DSE), known by the name "Alexis," threatened to
jail the journalist unless he collaborated with them.
refused to collaborate. On August 17, he was stopped in the
street by state security agents and taken by car to the outskirts
of Sagua de Tánamo, where he was met by a DSE officer
named "Riquelme." Officer "Riquelme" warned the journalist
that he could be charged with spreading "enemy propaganda,"
a crime that carries a one to eight-year prison sentence.
Garcell was then taken back to Sagua de Tánamo and
was apparently provoked by an article titled "Exploitation
of Man by the Socialist State-Capitalist Investor," which
was filed by Garcell on July 11. The article reported on labor
conditions at a local nickel factory owned jointly by the
Cuban government and a Canadian corporation in the municipality
of Moa, Holguín Province.
21, DSE agents again detained the journalist and took his
fingerprints, after which he was released. At this time, he
was also warned that he could be sent to jail.
Birger Thuresson, Nya Dagen
Peter Göetell, Sundsvalls Tidning
Helena Söederqvist, Arvika Nyheter
Göetell, and Söederqvist, three Swedish journalists
visiting Havana, were detained for around 60 hours and expelled
by Cuban authorities because of their contacts with members
of the independent press.
7 a.m. on August 29, security police detained the Swedish
journalists at their guest house in the municipality of Centro
Habana. They were taken to an immigration detention center,
subjected to lengthy interrogation, and denied outside contact.
to news wires, Thuresson worked for Nya Dagen, a small religious
newspaper; Göetell for the daily Sundsvalls Tidning;
and Söederqvist for Arvika Nyheter, a small regional
their detention, the three journalists had met with Cuban
independent journalists at a seminar on freedom of the press.
The Cuban government accused the Swedish journalists of violating
their tourist visas by engaging in journalistic work. Defending
the government's actions, Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez
Roque told The Associated Press that the Swedish journalists
had "been encouraging subversive acts, which contribute to
the United States' desperate attempts to develop internal
subversion in Cuba."
Swedes were sponsored by the Swedish International Liberal
Center, an organization that promotes democracy. After the
Swedish Embassy in Havana intervened, they were released and
deported back to Stockholm on the evening of August 31.
30, CPJ circulated a news alert about the case.
Jesús Hernández Hernández, HavanaPress
Jadir Hernández Hernández, HavanaPress
security agents detained the Hernández brothers, both
reporters for the independent news agency HavanaPress, for
over three days in a small town outside Havana. Early in the
morning of September 15, agents from the government's Technical
Department of Investigations (DTI) detained the brothers and
took them to DTI offices in San José de Las Lajas,
near Havana. The agents confiscated a typewriter, an electronic
organizer, and manuscript articles written by the brothers,
and accused them of smuggling Cuban emigrants to the United
interrogations on September 16 and 17, DTI agents also threatened
to prosecute the brothers for "disrespect" and "spreading
false news," and to bring additional charges under the Law
for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy
(also known as Law 88). Law 88 mandates prison terms of up
to 20 years for anyone found guilty of "supporting, facilitating,
or collaborating with the objectives of the Helms-Burton Law
[U.S. legislation that imposes sanctions on foreign companies
trading with Cuba], the embargo, and the economic war against
our people, with the goal of ruining internal order, destabilizing
the country, and liquidating the socialist state and Cuba's
independent journalists contended that Cuban authorities had
detained the two journalists because of their work, and that
all the charges were fabricated to intimidate them and create
grounds for future prosecution.
and Jadir were released on the afternoon of September 18.
CPJ published a news alert about the case on September 20.
Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Nueva Prensa
Saludes, who had worked for the independent news agency Nueva
Prensa since 1997, was detained by state security agents,
who also searched his home. At around 8 a.m., government agents
detained Rodríguez Saludes at his home in the Havana
neighborhood of Lawton. Before taking the journalist to the
headquarters of the National Police's Sixth Unit, located
in the neighborhood of Marianao, they searched his house.
of Rodríguez Saludes' detention was released by the
journalist's nine-year-old son, who phoned Odilia Collazo
Valdés, president of the outlawed Partido Pro Derechos
Humanos de Cuba (Cuba Human Rights Party). From the police
station, Rodríguez Saludes was taken to a State Security
Department detention center in Havana, where he was released
later that evening.