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Last jailed journalist released into exile

The last remaining Cuban journalist in prison, Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, was freed on 7 April and exiled to Spain, report the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). This ends "a dark, eight-year-long era in which the island nation was one of the world's worst jailers of the press," at one time jailing nearly 30 independent reporters and writers, says CPJ.

Du Bouchet Hernández was released alongside 36 political prisoners and more than 200 of their family members, report the members. CPJ called it "a milestone in an intensive, international advocacy effort led by the Catholic Church, the Spanish government, and international press and human rights groups."

The former director of the independent news agency Havana Press was two years into a three-year sentence on charges of "disrespect for authority" and distributing enemy propaganda. His landmark release comes one month after the last remaining dissident journalists held since the March 2003 crackdown on dissent, known as the "Black Spring", were freed.

President Raul Castro had agreed back in July 2010 to release the 52 remaining political prisoners that had been rounded up in the Black Spring, tried in secret, one-day proceedings on broad antistate charges, and sentenced to terms of up to 27 years. The agreement led to the biggest release of political prisoners in more than a decade, but the process - expected to take four months - stretched out to eight.

Initially only those who agreed to go into exile in Spain were freed. According to CPJ, exile from Cuba was not a condition of the agreement, but only three Black Spring journalists, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Iván Hernández Carrillo, and Pedro Argüelles Morán, have been allowed to remain in Cuba after rejecting exile to Spain as a condition of release. They were freed on parole.

Du Bouchet Hernández was not directly included in the 2010 agreement, but his freedom came with a similar condition of exile.

The newly freed journalists have been recounting their imprisonment and liberation in a series of stories, After the Black Spring, on CPJ's blog.

Despite the latest conciliatory gesture, independent journalists continue to face harassment and intimidation for their work. According to RSF, last week, Spanish journalist Carlos Hernando, a contributor to Spain's Intereconomía media group and the maker of a short documentary about Cuban dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas, was arrested and held for five hours in Havana. Accused of "counter-revolutionary activity", he was ordered to leave Cuba within 48 hours.

Fariñas, the 2010 winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was himself placed under house arrest restrictions last week in his home town of Santa Clara after new protests there, says RSF.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Related stories on ifex.org
  • Ending dark era, Cuba frees last jailed journalist

    CPJ expressed relief that Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández has been freed, a milestone in an intensive, international advocacy effort led by the Catholic Church, the Spanish government and international rights groups.

  • Ending dark era, Cuba frees last jailed journalist

    CPJ expressed relief that Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández has been freed, a milestone in an intensive, international advocacy effort led by the Catholic Church, the Spanish government and international rights groups.



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