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Journalist's release leaves 24 others waiting to be freed

(RSF/IFEX) - Oscar Sánchez Madán, a correspondent for the Miami-based website Cubanet, in Matanzas province, who was one of the 25 journalists imprisoned in Cuba, was released on 11 April after completing a three-year jail sentence.

Sánchez was given a summary trial in April 2007 and convicted of "pre-crime social dangerousness," a charge often used against dissidents. Based on the notion of a "potential threat" to society, the charge allows the Cuban authorities to violate the most elementary principles of the rule of law and jail someone who has committed no crime.

Sánchez said after his release that he would continue his work as a journalist and human rights activist.

While welcoming his release, Reporters Without Borders points out that it was neither an act of clemency nor a sign that the regime is relaxing its repressive policies. The international community - especially Spain, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, and the countries of Latin America - must press the Cuban government to free the other imprisoned journalists and dissidents.

Cuba ranks just after Iran and China as one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists. It is now holding a total of 24 journalists, including the Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso. The health of most of these journalists, including González, who has been held since the "Black Spring" crackdown of March 2003, has deteriorated considerably because of the poor conditions in Cuba's prisons.

Journalist Guillermo Fariñas has been on hunger strike for the past 50 days to press for the release of political prisoners who are very ill. He is currently hospitalised in Santa Clara where, according to the Payolibre website, his condition improved slightly after he was treated for an infection. Fariñas is nonetheless determined to press on with his hunger strike, although Reporters Without Borders has urged him to give up his protest. "I feel better today," he reportedly said.

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