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IAPA concerned about health of independent journalist on hunger strike

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (March 2, 2010) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed its fear for the health of independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas after he began a hunger strike last week, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all jailed journalists and prisoners of conscience, especially those who are seriously ill.

Upon learning of the delicate state of Fariñas, a psychologist and journalist who initiated a hunger strike on February 25 in protest over the death of opposition politician Orlando Zapata, IAPA officers announced that the status of the independent press and freedom of expression in Cuba will be a topic of special attention during the organization's membership meeting, March 19-22 in Aruba.

Fariñas was beaten by police and arrested in Sancti Spíritus on February 24 on his way to Banes to attend Zapata's funeral. This is his 23rd hunger strike in the last 15 years; his 2006 strike was a call for free access to the Internet for all Cubans.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper "Diario Las Américas", called attention to the grave situation and Cuban officials' inhuman treatment of the imprisoned journalists, many of whom are in poor health. "The mistreatment, lack of medical attention and failure to release the sick on humanitarian grounds, amount to a serious violation of human rights," he declared.

The Chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the "San Antonio Express-News", Texas, recalled that in its most recent report on the state of freedom of the press and free speech in Cuba the IAPA determined that 27 independent journalists were serving prison terms ranging from one to 28 years under deplorable conditions.

The IAPA officers also condemned prisoners' rights violations and lack of due medical attention for the ill and aged, noting in addition that the Cuban government still has not agreed to grant parole on humanitarian grounds for a number of imprisoned journalists, including Normando Hernández, José Luis García Paneque, Alfredo Pulido López, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Pablo Pacheco and Ricardo González Alfonso.
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