EU's British presidency asked to
intercede in new crackdown in Cuba.
Following a new crackdown on Cuba's independent journalists in which
several have been arrested, Reporters Without Borders has written to the
British government, the current holder of the European Union presidency,
expressing concern and asking it to make any softening in the EU stance
on Cuba strictly conditional on the release of the independent
journalists imprisoned in Cuba.
Text of the letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair:
Dear Prime Minister,
Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organization,
would like to express its concern to you about an increase in the Cuban
government's repression of independent journalists despite the fact that
the European Council agreed on 13 June to extend the suspension of
sanctions against Cuba for a year while at the same time condemning "the
measures taken by the Cuban authorities with the aim of limiting freedom
of expression and assembly and press freedom."
We would like to remind you that Cuba is currently the world's second
biggest prison for the press. A total of 24 journalists are imprisoned
in Cuba and the press freedom situation there is getting worse and
Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Fernández, the editor of the independent
Havana Press news agency and a member of the board of the Assembly to
Promote Civil Society's magazine, was sentenced to a year in prison in a
summary trial on 9 August for "civil disobedience" and "resisting" the
authorities at the time of his arrest while covering unrest in Artemisa
(in Havana province) on 6 August. He was not able to have a defense
Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero of the Nueva Prensa Cubana agency was also
convicted on 9 August of "civil disobedience" and "resisting" the
authorities. She was sentenced to seven months of "conditional freedom."
Reporters Without Borders has registered many other cases of attempts to
intimidate independent journalists, but will cite just the two most
recent instances here. Lázaro Raúl González's home was searched without
any reason by members of the National Revolutionary Police on 19 August
and he was taken to the police station for refusing to surrender his
identity document. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who has already spent six
years in Cuban prisons, was attacked by two members of the armed forces
on a motor-cycle on 22 August.
We must also mention the 22 July arrest of Oscar Mario González, who is
now waiting trial under the draconian Law 88 and faces up to 20 years in
We are convinced that in these circumstances extending the suspension of
sanctions against Cuba for a year would violate the Common Position
adopted by the European Union in 1996, which aims to "encourage a
process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms."
We therefore call on you to ensure that, when the European Union's
position on Cuba is next examined, the release of the imprisoned
independent journalists is made a basic condition for suspending
sanctions. While the Cuba government has made a few symbolic gestures of
democratic opening (including letting the Assembly to Promote Civil
Society hold a meeting in Havana in May), the situation is far from
improving for the independent press, despite the European Union's
We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.
Source: Reporters Without Borders
August 29, 2005