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Imprisoned Cuban journalist nears 25th day of hunger strike

UPDATE: From Cuban prison, reporter speaks out (CPJ, 11 December 2012)

(IPI/IFEX) - Dec 5, 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI) is deeply concerned for the well-being of jailed Cuban journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez, who has been on a hunger strike since Nov. 10 to protest prison conditions.

In a video statement released yesterday, Hablemos Press, the Havana-based independent news agency for which Martínez was a correspondent, said that the journalist was being held in Combinado del Este prison's “Area 47”, known as the “corridor of death” for its previous role in housing death-row inmates.

While information about Martínez's condition has been scarce, a Cuban political prisoner, Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico, informed Hablemos Press in November that Martínez was being held naked in a “punishment cell” and being given only a liter of water per day.

Martínez was arrested on Sept. 16 and later charged with insulting Fidel and Ramón Castro under the country's “contempt of authority” laws, known in the Spanish-speaking world as desacato. The journalist's arrest is thought to be releated to investigative coverage an outbreak of cholera and dengue fever on the island, though the Cuban government has provided no official explanation.

“There has not been one shred of evidence presented to support the Cuban government's charges against Calixto Ramón Martínez,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “Our position is absolutely clear: He must be released, immediately and unconditionally.”

Recently, Cuba has experienced an uptick in repression against journalists and free-speech activists. Last month, IPI strongly condemned the arrest of 27 dissidents, including IPI World Press Freedom Hero Yoani Sánchez, who were later released. Also last month, a former state media reporter, José Antonio Torres, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for espionage.

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