The International Federation of Journalists has warned that the arrest and detention of journalists and dissidents last week will further isolate Cuba in the international community.
"The victimisation of independent journalists and democrats will destroy the goodwill that Cuba enjoys among many in the world of journalism," said the IFJ, calling for the immediate release of the arrested journalists, many of who are facing trial under laws that cover "serious acts of collaborating with the enemy."
Some 12 journalists working for independent unauthorised Cuban news agencies were held on 18 March. The journalists are accused of being "traitors" and of working with the United States representatives in Havana who the government accuse of subversive activities. Under draconian laws the journalists could face up to 20 years in jail.
"Cuba must release these dissidents and journalists and recognise that Latin America has moved on from a time when such brutal disregard of democratic rights was tolerated," says the IFJ. The IFJ says that independent news agencies should be legally recognised.
The 12 journalists reportedly arrested are:
Ricardo González, head of the Sociedad Manuel Márquez Sterling group of independent journalists (Havana); José Luis García Paneque, head of the Libertad agency based in Las Tunas (east of Havana); Omar Rodríguez Saludes and Luis Cino, head and reporter of the Nueva Prensa agency (Havana); Jorge Olivera, head of the Havana Press agency (Havana); Pedro Argüelles Morán, head of the Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes agency (Ciego de Avila); Alida Viso Bello, of the Cuba Press agency (Havana); Claudia Márquez, of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro agency (Havana); Iván Hernández Carrillo, correspondent of the Pátria agency in Colón (Matanzas); Miguel Galván, of Havana Press; Edel José García, a freelance; and Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, of the UPECI agency (Pinar del Rio).
"These arrests and threats to journalists are completely unacceptable," says the IFJ. "Our colleagues must be freed and be given the freedom to work without intimidation."