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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Woody BS: Who's Next? Iran or Korea? (1319* d) RE: BS: Who's Next? Iran or Korea? 02 Aug 06


Six Cuban journalists jailed in a crackdown that began in March 2003 were released in 2004, but with 23 members of the media still behind bars, this Caribbean nation remains one of the world's leading jailers of journalists, second only to China. During 2004, Cuban authorities continued their systematic harassment of journalists and their families.

Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and of the press, as long as they are "in keeping with the goals of the socialist society." However, under the guise of protecting national sovereignty and state security interests, Cuban legislation‚Ä"including the Penal Code and Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy‚Ä"effectively bars free journalism. Moreover, the judiciary lacks independence, being subordinate to the legislature and the Council of State, which is headed by President Fidel Castro Ruz.

The government arrested 29 journalists in March 2003, while the world's attention was focused on the war in Iraq, and summarily tried them behind closed doors on April 3 and 4. Many of the journalists did not have access to lawyers before their trials. Most of the defense lawyers had only a few hours to prepare their cases.

Some journalists were tried under Article 91 of the Penal Code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the State." Other journalists were prosecuted for violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which calls for imprisonment of up to 20 years for anyone who commits acts "aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system."

On April 7, 2003, courts across the island announced prison sentences for the journalists ranging from 14 to 27 years. In June 2003, the People's Supreme Tribunal, Cuba's highest court, dismissed the journalists' appeals for annulment (recursos de casación) and upheld their convictions.

Most of the journalists are being held in maximum-security facilities, and they have denounced their unsanitary prison conditions and inadequate medical care. They have also complained of receiving rotten food. Unlike the general prison population, most journalists are only allowed family visits every three months and marital visits every four months. Their relatives have been harassed for talking to the foreign press, protesting the journalists' incarceration, and gathering signatures calling for their release.

Those journalists who were ill before being jailed have seen their health worsen in prison and have been transferred to hospitals or prison infirmaries. Others have developed new illnesses because of prison conditions. Some went on hunger strikes during 2004 to protest. Because prison authorities refused to allow outside contact with the strikers or to disclose information about them, their families were unable to check on their health. Some journalists managed to write articles or poems and smuggle them out of jail, and several were harassed for denouncing their situation.

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