Cuba Politics

Twenty-one imprisoned journalists urgently need help two years after “Black Spring”

Posted March 16, 2005 by Cubana in Cuba Politics.

Launch of new awareness campaign on second anniversary

Reporters Without Borders is campaigning harder than ever for the 21 Cuban journalists who have been imprisoned since the 2003 crackdown. Two years after that “Black Spring” in Cuba, in which 75 dissidents and journalists were arrested on 18 March 2003, Reporters Without Borders is calling for the broadest possible solidarity with these prisoners of conscience.

Despite the release of six of these journalists including Raúl Rivero on 2 December 2004, Cuba’s independent press remains the target of constant censorship and threats by the authorities.

“We continue to condemn the summary trials and excessive sentences, ranging from 14 to 27 years prison, imposed on journalists whose only crime has been to practice their trade and think differently from the authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We demand their immediate and unconditional release. We also condemn the mistreatment, arbitrary use of solitary confinement and privations, and awful sanitary conditions in Cuba’s prisons.”

The case of Adolfo Fernández Sainz of the independent news agency Patría is considered to be one of the most worrying by his fellow political prisoners. Aged 51 and serving a 15-year prison sentence, he has pulmonary emphysema, kidney cysts, a stomach hiatus hernia, an enlarged prostate, arthritis throughout much of his body, and high blood pressure. He has lost 20 kg since he went into prison and he is not receiving appropriate treatment of any form.

Miguel Galván Gutierrez of Havana Press, who is serving a 26-year sentence, has had to sleep on a plank since 29 September 2004, when his mattress was taken away without explanation. The dental examination he should have had on 20 October had to be aborted because the equipment was not working.

Pablo Pacheco Ávila, 33, a member of the Cooperativa Ávileña de Periodistas Independientes (CAPI), has been unable to have the X-rays he needs on two occasions for the same reason. Serving a 20-year prison sentence, he suffers from a number of orthopaedic problems, chronic gastritis, migraines and high blood pressure. The limited food he receives is incompatible with his medicines.

Similar prisons conditions, privations and ailments are being endured by Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Jose Luis García Paneque, Julio Cesar Gálvez Rodríguez, Normando Hernández González, Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández, Mijail Barzaga Lugo, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Alejandro González Raga, Ivan Hernández Carrillo, Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Alfredo Manuel Pulido Lopez, Omar Moises Ruiz Hernández and Omar Rodríguez Saludes.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO) spent a year in a windowless cell, has lost 17 kg and has received only three visits since he was imprisoned. Hector Maseda Gutierrez of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency said in a letter to his wife, Laura Pollán, who founded the Women in White movement of wives and close relatives of detained dissidents, that the food and medicine she brings when she visits the prison are confiscated after she leaves.

Editor of the underground magazine De Cuba and correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, Ricardo González Alfonso was sentenced on 4 April 2003 to 20 years in prison. The prosecutor had requested life imprisonment. His wife, Alida Viso, said he is “locked away with his optimism as a companion.” He received treatment for his hepatitis in November 2004 and underwent an operation for gallstones on 13 January 2005. His morale remains high, his family says, despite his ailments and his hunger strike in December 2004.


Reporters Without Borders is launching a new awareness campaign using cinema, radio, posters, postcards and press inserts. Conceived by the SAATCHI & SAATCHI advertising agency, the campaign will highlight two contrasting images of the island, the idyllic scenes that lure tourists of all kinds, and the sordid prisons that house the opponents of Fidel Castro’s regime.

Cinema A 30-second film directed by Lionel Mougin for Saatchi & Saatchi shows a scene at the centre of a black screen : a beach, an old American car and a group of musicians. It could only be Cuba. This idyllic vision is suddenly swept aside by a small metallic door. We are in prison and a guard’s eye is staring at us.

Words appear on the screen. They say : Welcome to Cuba One of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists 21 journalists are currently detained in the worst conditions Reporters Without Borders Don’t wait until you’re deprived of information to defend it

This spot will be screened free of charge for three weeks from today thanks to the Mediavision and Screenvision distribution networks.

Title : The Peephole / Advertiser : Reporters Without Borders / Format and length : 30 secs / Date of issue : 16 March 2005 / Director : Lionel Mougin / Music : / Creative director : Christophe Coffre / Artistic director : Marion Vielfaure / Writer : David Laloum / TV producer : Martine Joly / Client executives : Robert Menard and Anne Martinez Saiz / Agency executives : Emmanuel Collin, Angelique Renard and François Brogi.

Radio A 30-second radio spot says there is “a voice that the Cuban regime knows exactly how to silence, that of the 21 journalists currently in prison just for wanting to do their job.” Reporters Without Borders calls on all radio stations to carry this spot free of charge.

A longer version of this message has been put on a CD and sent to the specialist music press with the title : “A new Cuban sound, exclusive.” A catchy tune quickly gives way to the sordid sounds of a prison, disrupting the music. A voice says 21 journalists are still imprisoned in Cuba.

Creative director : Christophe Coffre / Concept and writing : David Laloum / Artistic direction : Marion Vielfaure and Arnaud Van Den Abeele / Sound production : Chez Jean / Sound production agency : Pierre Dreyfus / Client executives : Robert Menard and Anne Martinez / Agency executives : Emmanuel Collin, Angelique Renard and François Brogi.

Press campaign, posters and postcards The press campaign picture, in the form of posters and postcards, is based on the principle of the children’s game “Where’s Charlie ?” in which you have to find a person in a red and black striped swimsuit in the middle of a crowd of busy people in a very colourful scene.

The picture, drawn by illustrator Beatrice Veillon, shows a scene of Havana daily life and asks the question : “Where are the journalists ?” The answer is at the bottom, written upside down. “Don’t look in Cuba, they’re in prison.”

Utilization : 1,000 60 x 80 posters displayed by the INSERT network from 21 March 50,000 Cart’com postcards from 16 March Publication free of charge in newspapers and magazines from 16 March

Where are the journalists ? / Creative director : Christophe Coffre / Writer : David Laloum / Artistic director : Marion Vielfaure / Illustrator : Beatrice Veillon / Art buyer : Marion Venot / Client executives : Robert Menard and Anne Martinez / Agency executives : Emmanuel Collin, Angelique Renard and François Brogi.

By participating in the dissemination of this campaign, the news media help Reporters Without Borders provide information about the situation in Cuba to those tempted by the idea of a holiday on the island.

Reporters Without Borders reminds news media that have not yet adopted imprisoned journalists that they can contact us about sponsoring a colleague in prison in Cuba.

Member Comments

On March 20, 2005, PABLOPUEBLO wrote:

The trials were unfair,the veredicts were overblown,the
treatment in prison,no acceptable under any human standard.
But,the unforgettable for me,were those tree youngsters,who
were executed evilly, when a prison sentence could have been
enough.Actions like that could never be justified.That has been
a very miscarriage of the cuban government,a big failure.