The International Press Institute called Tuesday for the “immediate release” of the 22 journalists jailed in Cuba and warned of the risk of downplaying the importance of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and the press.
The Vienna-based IPI noted in a statement that the U.N. Human Rights Council recently praised Cuba for making progress in promoting rights related to nutrition, education and health, but not freedom of expression.
“Various national delegations, including those of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Chile, Italy and Slovakia, expressed concern about Cuba’s violation of the right to freedom of expression and the continued imprisonment of journalists and human rights defenders,” the IPI said.
The U.N. panel, however, noted that 79 people were arrested in 2003 in an “arbitrary” manner. Among those detained in that government crackdown were 29 journalists, of whom 21 remain imprisoned, the IPI said.
Dissident organizations on the communist-ruled island estimate the total number of political prisoners in Cuba at around 207.
“I am indeed glad to see that the report includes concerns about the lack of freedom of expression in Cuba, as well as recommendations to lift restrictions on this fundamental right,” IPI Director David Dadge said.
“However, I feel that these concerns are not given enough visibility in a report that also extensively commends Cuba’s achievements in the field of social and economic rights, providing a relatively positive assessment of the general human rights situation in the country,” he said.
“Cuba’s suppression of dissenting voices, thoroughly and systematically carried out for so many years, strongly affects our ability to understand and assess the situation in the country,” Dadge said.
The IPI statement noted the case of journalist Omar Rodriguez Saludes, director of the independent Nueva Prensa Cubana news agency, who was arrested in March 2003 and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
The IPI said it prepared a video that contains interviews with Rodriguez’s relatives and photos of the journalist, whose case is a “powerful reminder that fundamental rights are still being violated in Cuba.”
The International Press Institute describes itself as a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists “dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.”