There are no longer any journalists in prison in Cuba. The last one was Albert Santiago Du Bouchet, who arrived in Spain today along with 36 other Cuban dissidents who were released on condition that they agree to go into exile.
The head of the independent Habana Press agency, Du Bouchet had been detained since 18 April 2009 and was serving a three-year jail sentence on a charge of “disrespect for authority.” His landmark release comes one month after the last dissident journalists still held since the March 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown were freed.
“Although Du Bouchet has had to go into exile, his release takes on particular significance when you remember that just a year ago Cuba was still one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, alongside China, Iran and Eritrea,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We welcome this important step and we will keep it in mind.
“However, this conciliatory gesture does not in any way exempt the Cuban authorities from the requirement to honour the international undertakings they gave in 2008 by signing two UN conventions on civil and political rights, which are still pending ratification. To fulfil these obligations, they must accept pluralism, allow media to operate outside state control, stop suppressing free speech and grant all Cubans access to an unfiltered Internet.”
The international community, for its part, must encourage Cuba’s political evolution. Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call of the lifting of the unjust US embargo of Cuba that has been in place since 1962. It also urges the European Community to review its “common position” on Cuba, which conditions a normalization of diplomatic relations on respect for human rights.
The Cuban government’s “opening” is still extremely limited. This can be seen in the still high number of brief arrests of dissidents who dare to demand more freedom. The foreign media is not spared either.
Only yesterday, Spanish journalist Carlos Hernando, a contributor to Spain’s Intereconomía media group and the maker of a short documentary about Cuban dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas, was arrested and held for five hours in Havana. Accused of “counter-revolutionary activity,” he was ordered to leave Cuba within 48 hours.
Fariñas, the 2010 winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was placed under house arrest restrictions this week in his home town of Santa Clara after new protests there.
Separately, Reporters Without Borders hopes very shortly to know the reasons for the arrest and detention since 11 July last year in Cuba of Sebastián Martínez Ferrate. He is a Spanish former producer and freelance journalist who in 2008 produced a report on child prostitution in Cuba. He ceased his activities in 2009 well before his last visit to Cuba.
"Reporters Without Borders hopes, in the absence of clear explanations on the part of the Cuban authorities, that this detention is not connected to the journalistic work previously carried out by Sebastián Martínez Ferrate,” the organization said.
“The Cuban government has, according to our sources, apparently put forward reasons relating to national security. We have not forgotten that this type of argument has regularly been used to send to prison journalists who were only carrying out their duties.”