Press freedom watchdog calls on Cuba to free reporters

June 26th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, June 26 (IANS) Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Cuban government to release 23 imprisoned journalists in response to the lifting of European Union (EU)’s diplomatic sanction on the island country, EFE reported Thursday. “There have been a few advances in freedom of expression and information since (President) Raul Castro took over on Feb 24, with Cubans being given the right to buy their own computer equipment or enter tourist hotels that have better Internet connections,” the Paris-based organization, known by its French acronym, said in a statement.

RSF noted “with a total of 23 journalists detained, Cuba continues to be the world’s biggest prison for the media after China. It is the western hemisphere’s only country that not does permit any form of media that is not under direct government control.”

The EU June 19 called off the diplomatic sanctions it had imposed on Cuba in 2003 to protest the arrest of the dissidents known as the Group of 75 and said it would initiate a dialogue with Havana.

The body made special mention in a communique of the situation of journalist Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, who was arrested in Cuba in March 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for being a “mercenary” of the United States.

Gonzalez Alfonso, 58, in 2000 founded the independent magazine De Cuba and the Manuel Marquez Sterling journalism society.

Alfonso’s wife Alida Viso Bello told RSF her husband was being denied medical facility in the jail, adding that the authorities had not replied to her request to provide Alfonso the life saving drugs.

“For the past month he has not been getting the Captopril medicine that heart doctors prescribed for his high blood pressure, and … he is having a lot of arthritis attacks because he does not have an appropriate chair in his cell.” Viso said.

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