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Call for release of independent journalist accused of insulting president

Call for release of independent journalist accused of insulting president

Published on Monday 24 September 2012.

Harassment of dissidents has never really stopped since Raúl Castro

became president in 2006 but, if they are detained, it is usually for

short spells. The arrest of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for

the independent Hablemos Press agency, could prove to be the exception

and could hark back to an era when dissidents were detained for longer

periods.

Martínez was arrested on 16 September and has been held ever since on a

charge of insulting the president, which could lead to a three-year

prison sentence.

"It is hard to see how the investigation into a spoiled consignment of

medicines that Martínez was carrying out at the time of his arrest, or

his earlier revelations about cholera and dengue, which the authorities

confirmed, could result in a charge of insulting the president,"

Reporters Without Borders said.

"This charge is totally absurd, just as any attempt to make an example

out of this case will be futile. Information of public interest should

be disseminated, discussed and debated. Such a debate is clearly lacking

in the official media, one of whose journalists is still detained while

others have chosen exile. We call for Martínez's immediate release."

Reporters Without Borders added: "The Cuban government must accept civil

society's right to ask questions and report information in accordance

with the conventions on civil and political rights it signed in 2008,

but has not yet ratified. Will the other members of the Bolivarian

Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of

Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) remind it of the need to

respect this principle?"

Hablemos Press editor Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez tried without

success on 21 September to obtain permission to visit Martínez, who was

arrested near José Martí international airport. Dissident journalists

who were present were threatened with arrest and some were briefly detained.

According to the latest information, Martínez was transferred to Enrique

Cabrera Hospital on 20 September for treatment to blows he received to

the left eye.

Martínez is being persecuted by the authorities, who want him to go back

to Camagüey, where he was from, although he now lives and works in

Havana. In the past 10 years, he has been sent back to Camagüey ten

times, although the law on internal migration, which used to make it

hard for provincial residents to move to the capital, was relaxed at the

end of 2011.

He is the third Hablemos Press journalist to be detained this month.

Government journalists defect

The day that Martínez was arrested, Mairelys Cuevas Gómez, an editor

with the Communist Party newspaper Granma, took advantage of a working

visit to Mexico to go the US border and request asylum.

She was following the example of Luis López Viera, the sports editor of

Juventud Rebelde, another official newspaper, who asked the British

immigration authorities for asylum a month earlier, on 15 August, as the

London Olympics were ending.

Reporters Without Borders would like to hear the Cuban government's

reaction to the departure of journalists it employs, and to know more

about the fate of José Antonio Torres, another reporter for the Cuban

state media, who has been held for more than a year on an unexplained

charge of spying.

http://en.rsf.org/cuba-call-for-release-of-independent-24-09-2012,43441.html

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