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Cuban journalist freed seven months after reporting on cholera outbreak

Reporters Without Borders hails the 9 April 2013 release of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, an independent reporter for the Hablemos Press information centre, after several weeks of mounting calls for his release from Cuban civil society and international organizations.

On being freed, Martínez immediately went to Hablemos Press headquarters, where fellow independent journalists Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, Denis Noa Machines and Gerardo Younel Ávila Perdomo had begun a hunger strike the day before to press for his release.

Another journalist, David Águila Montero, had joined the protest at Hablemos Press, while many journalists in the provinces – including Daniel Millet Jiménez, Fernando Vázquez Guerra and Misael Canet Velázquez in Camagüey, and David Águila Montero and Luis Manuel Fumero – followed suit.

Martínez had himself staged three hunger strikes since his arrest on 16 September 2012. The first was from 10 November to 13 December. He began the second on 6 March and ended it on 29 March, after the authorities promised to free him. Still in detention 10 days later, he began the third one on 8 April, with his Hablemos Press colleagues immediately taking it up.

Martínez was arrested for revealing the existence of dengue and cholera epidemics, which the government confirmed a few days later. He had been facing a possible three-year sentence on a charge of insulting the president although the charge was never officially confirmed and he was never tried.

While his release is to be welcomed, it must not divert attention from the continuing harassment of independent journalists and bloggers, and the fate of other detainees such as Luis Antonio Torres, a reporter for the official daily Granma, held since May 2011, and the writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, author of a blog called “Los hijos que nadie quiso”, held since 28 February.

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