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22 journalists imprisoned since March 2003
Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona denied treatment

In Cuba, they don't just censor you now - they throw you in jail. Fidel Castro's police rounded up 27 independent journalists on 18 March 2003, along with more than 50 political dissidents, all for the same reason. At the beginning of April, Cuban courts dispatched each of these journalists to prison for between 14 and 27 years after three days of sham trials. They were punished for allegedly working with the United States "against the independence and territorial integrity of the state," which is a crime under article 91 of the Cuban criminal code and under article 88 on "protecting national independence" (known as the "gag law").
Those targeted had regularly published articles in the foreign press, mostly American, since no independent or privately-owned newspaper or radio or TV station is allowed in Cuba, and had recently dared to start up two underground publications in Cuba itself - "De Cuba" and "Luz Cubana" - which was unprecedented in the 44 years of President Castro's rule.
This new persecution of political opponents and independent journalists, as well as the execution on 11 April of three would-be refugees who hijacked a ferry in a bid to reach Florida, has revolted democrats around the world, even leading the European Union to reconsider its future economic cooperation with Cuba. As a result, fourteen of the dissidents, including six journalists, have since been released.
New Free Press Association and Reporters Without Borders invites the public to sign a petition calling for the immediate release of the 26 journalists who are still in jail.

The media are under official control, though there is rivalry between them. The state is in the hands of the ruling Communist Party, which stepped up repression of dissidents, especially journalists, who use the Internet to put out their news.


Government brutally breaks up South Korean parliamentarians' press conference
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) voiced dismay after Chinese state security agents broke up a press conference in Beijing called by South Korean parliamentarians over the plight of North Korean refugees.
Around 40 journalists were brutally ejected from a hotel conference room on 12 January 2005.
The worldwide press freedom organization said Beijing was using "unacceptable methods" to stop the press reporting on North Korean refugees in China, that "only confirmed the Chinese government's obvious collusion with the Pyongyang regime."

"China should allow Chinese and foreign journalists to report freely on North Korea", it said in a
letter to Chinese foreign minister Zhaoxing Li.
Men claiming to be from the Chinese foreign ministry agents stopped the South Korean parliamentarians from holding their press conference at the Sheraton Hotel, one of them yelling at journalists, "Everyone out, you can't do this" and threatening those who asked for his name.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that some 40 journalists were roughly bundled out of the room by security agents.
The four South Korean deputies, including Kim Moon-soo, were there to brief the media on their investigative trip to Yanji Province in the north-east to check on the North Korean refugees.
They were also seeking to draw media attention to the plight of several South Koreans who are being held in China for coming to the aid of the refugees from North Korea.
"How can they do this to us, we are here lawfully and we have diplomatic passports", Park Seung-hwan, of the Grand National Party told AFP.
Two South Korean reporters were detained in China in 2004 for investigating the plight of North Korean refugees. Photographer Jae-hyun Seok was released in March 2004, after 14 months in detention. In September, a diplomatic magazine Zhanlue Yu Guanli (Strategy and Management) was closed after carrying an article by economist Wang Zhongwen criticising the North Korean regime.


North Korea was the world's worst violator of press freedom, according to the global ranking carried out by Reporters Without Borders in 2002. This Stalinist bastion had absolutely no form of press pluralism. All the news media were focussed on the personality cult of Kim Jong Il.


28 January 2005 Open letter to European Union foreign ministers

27 January 2005

Dear Minister,

Following the release of 14 dissidents in 2004 and the Cuban authorities' recent decision to renew relations with European Union (EU) countries, you will decide on 31 January with your counterparts from the 24 other member countries on a review of the June 2003 measures taken against Cuba. Reporters Without Borders wishes to draw your attention to the absence of noticeable progress in respect for press freedom in this country and urges you to decide to maintain and even extend the policy of support for dissidents.

Our organization obviously welcomed the release of Raúl Rivero and three other journalists a few weeks ago. But 22 of their colleagues are still detained, which makes Cuba the world's biggest prison for the press after

China, with 26 journalists detained.

The EU member states condemned the poor prison conditions of Cuba's political detainees in July 2003 and voiced concern about their health problems. It is now nearly two years since their arrest, yet these prisons conditions have not changed and the state of health of several of the detained journalists is worrying. Normando Hernández González, who is held in the western province of Pinar del Río, was recently transferred to a hospital after tests showed he has contracted tuberculosis. Those of his fellow journalists who are not in prison are banned from being published in Cuba and are subject to constant harassment aimed at forcing them into exile.

To make their voices heard, the European Union member states decided to reduce their cooperation with the Cuban authorities, limit high-level governmental visits of a bilateral nature, reduce the importance of the participation by member states in cultural ceremonies and invite Cuban dissidents to events organized for national day celebrations.

While the European Union Committee on Latin America (COLAT) advocates the suspension of these measures, Reporters Without Borders is calling for them to be maintained or even strengthened. Firstly because these measures, especially the invitations to attend official functions, extricate the dissidents from the confrontation between Cuba and the United States, in which President Castro's government tries to enclose them.

Secondly because the Castro regime has never made any concessions on respect for human rights and political pluralism in the course of political dialogue. The Cuban government currently shows no sign that a resumption of dialogue would result in significant progress in these areas. Indeed, there has never been such extensive dialogue between the European Union and Cuba as during the months preceding the March 2003 "Black Spring," when Cuba had been on the point of benefiting from the Cotonou Accords.

Furthermore, the Cuban government's announcement that it has normalized relations with the EU in no way constitutes a concession as it was Cuba that broke them off in reprisal for the measures adopted by the EU.
The European Union can no longer content itself with condemning the jailing of political prisoners. It must now reinforce its support for the democrats in Cuba who fight for recognition and respect for basic freedoms and a multiparty system. As with the former Soviet bloc countries that are now EU members, Cuba's future will depend on the strength of civil society. Without closing the door to the Cuban authorities once they show real signs of an opening to dialogue (such as an end to the state monopoly of news and information), the European Union must develop cooperation programmers aimed at the dissidents.

That is why Reporters Without Borders hopes that you will decide in favor of maintaining the measures adopted after the wave of arrests in March 2003 and recommend more active support for the democrats and civil society that is now being repressed.
I trust that you will give our appeal your careful consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Ménard Secretary-General


Respecting and promoting human rights is not considered a legitimate activity and has been given the stigma of treason to Cuban sovereignty. No human rights group has been granted a legal status, instead human rights advocates face a systematic harassment, by means of which the government seriously interferes their possibility and capacity to properly observe the situation of human rights. The government of Cuba does not allow international human rights groups missions to enter the country as is the case of Human Rights Watch, and Cuba continues to be one of the few countries in the world and the only country in the western hemisphere which denies access to prisons to The International Committee of The RED CROSS.

Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez
Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez

Journalist with Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency. Aged 60.Arrested at his home on the night of 18-19 March by a dozen state security agents who searched it for more than eight hours, seizing two typewriters, a fax machine, a modem, a radio set, several copies of the 1940 Cuban national constitution and much written material.
Latest news...
Prison guards asked Hector Maseda Gutiérrez to squat for a body search on 4 January.
His wife is a member of the Women in White, a group of relatives of the 75 political prisoners who were arrested in March 2003.
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