NEW YORK – The Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday denounced a new wave of repression in Cuba against independent journalists, just months after Havana freed the last of 29 news-gatherers imprisoned by the regime during the Black Spring of 2003.
“When the last of 29 journalists jailed in a notorious 2003 crackdown was finally freed this year, it signaled to many the end of a dark era. But Cuban authorities are still persecuting independent journalists,” according to a new CPJ report.
The document says that, despite the recent moves by Cuban President Raul Castro to put on a good public face, the Cuban government “persists in aggressively persecuting critical journalists with methods that include arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions.”
“Today’s tactics have yet to attract widespread international attention because they are lower in profile than the Black Spring crackdown, but the government’s oppressive actions are ongoing and significant,” the New York-based press freedom watchdog said.
The CPJ report is based on a review of Cuban government activities in March and April, “two months with sensitive political milestones.”
Upwards of a dozen journalists were subjected to house arrest during the period, “preventing them from reporting on the Communist Party Congress in April and the eighth anniversary in March of the Black Spring crackdown that led to the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and dissidents,” the report says.
The report cites prominent dissident Elizardo Sanchez describing a “metamorphosis” in the political repression in Cuba.
“Before, repression was based on long prison sentences,” Sanchez told CPJ, adding that the regime now relies more on widespread, but brief detentions.
The CPJ is urging Cuban authorities to put an end to the campaigns to discredit independent journalists and to overturn “unjust” laws they resort to imprison them.
The organization, which also demands that journalists be allowed to work “freely and without fear of reprisal,” urged the regime to broaden Internet access among the population in general and permit exiled journalists to return to the communist island.
On the other hand, the CPJ called on the European Union to make improved relations with Cuba contingent upon Havana’s compliance with international human rights pacts it has signed. EFE