Friday, February 9, 2007 : The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has expressed concern at the Cuban government’s ongoing policy against free speech and press freedom after learning of a recent court sentencing of an independent journalist – the latest action in a long list of abuses.
“We condemn the fact that repression of independent views is continuing in Cuba,” declared Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. “It looks like we’re back in the bad old days when governments punish opinions different to their own. They should release those serving unwarranted prison terms for expressing their views and exercised their right to freedom of expression and press freedom.”
Ramón Velázquez Toranso, a reporter with the independent news agency Libertad, who has been harassed by State Security agents for the last year because of his work, was arrested on January 23 together with his wife, Bárbara González Cruz, and daughter, Rufina Velázquez González, after they took part in a peaceful human rights protest on December 10, 2006.
Both women were freed, but Velásquez was sent to court in Las Tunas in eastern Cuba, where he was convicted and sentenced to three years of “supervised parole” on a charge of “criminal social endangerment.” He remains in custody and has been staging a hunger strike since January 20.
The IAPA also called attention to other actions against journalists reported by various independent news agencies that write about Cuba. Among these was a more than two-hour-long raid on the home of Yosvani Anzardo Hernández of the Jóvenes sin Censura agency on January 29; threats issued by State Security agents to Odelín Alfonso, Cubanet on January 28, and a raid on the home of Haydée Rodríguez, of La Voz de Oriente agency on January 20 in which her belongings were seized.
Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, called on the Cuban government to abandon its anti-free speech policy and reiterated the IAPA’s appeal for the release of all jailed independent journalists.