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Journalist arrested twice in less than 24 hours

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, January 28, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today assailed the Cuban government for having arrested independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, and it called for an end to repression and for the release of other independent journalists still in prison.

Fariñas, a psychologist as well as journalist, was arrested yesterday (January 27) for the second time in less than 24 hours along with a dozen other dissidents. The previous day Fariñas and his companions were held for seven hours at a police station in Santa Clara province, east of Havana, accused of "public scandal" following a street protest staged in solidarity with a family that has been evicted from its home. He was released this morning.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, "We continue being witness to the Cuban regime's repression, which has not lessened one bit despite the fact that the government propaganda seeks to stress how conditions of life have changed – it is all a lie; this unmasks the government's intolerance of individual and collective freedoms."

The international organization Human Rights Watch had said in a report earlier this week on the state of human rights that "Cuba continues to be the only country in Latin America where almost all forms of political dissent are stifled" and that "there are many journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents that remain in prison and the government is using brief and arbitrary arrests to punish its critics."

The Human Rights Watch report coincided with one by the Cuban Human Rights Committee which came to light yesterday, which states that in 2010 there were 2,000 arrests as part of the pattern of intimidation that the government resorts to. Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, recalled that the IAPA has been calling for the release of the Cuban prisoners of conscience, among them seven independent journalists still in prison.

While the organization pointed out that resulting from a dialogue among the Roman Catholic Church and the Cuban and Spanish governments 20 independent journalists were released from prison, it criticized that they had been sent out of their country, not being allowed to work there.

Fariñas, 49, has staged 23 anti-government hunger strikes. He engaged in one last year from February 24 to July 8 in demand for the release of 26 ailing political prisoners and in protest at the government's having allowed opponent Orlando Zapata to die after staging a hunger strike while he was in jail. Fariñas was recently awarded the European Parliament's 2010 Sajarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

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