IFJ Calls on Cuba to Free All Jailed Journalists As Havana Expels Foreign Reporters

The International Federation of Journalists today protested to Cuban President Fidel Castro over the arrest and expulsion yesterday of journalists from Poland and Italy and called on the country to end its long-running campaign against independent journalists which has seen dozens of reporters and jailed.

The foreign journalists were trying to cover a meeting of dissidents when they were arrested and detained. The Polish journalists arrested and finally expelled from Havana were Seweryn Blumsztajn of the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Jerzy Jurecki of the regional daily Tygodnik Podhalanski, and Wojciech Rogasin of Newsweek and who had come to cover a congress of dissidents taking place there. Also held was their interpreter Maciej Sarna.

The IFJ supported also the protests of its affiliate in Italy the Federazione della Stampa Italiana (FNSI) over the arrest and expulsion of Francesco Battistini, the correspondent of the Corriere della Sera.

“These arrests and the continued imprisonment of more than 20 journalists and writers are shocking evidence of the intolerance that dictates media policy,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The Cuban regime loses all credibility and international support drains away because of its bullying and intimidation of media. All journalists in jail – from home and abroad – should be released immediately.”

Two years ago the Cuban government launched a crackdown on freedom of expression by arresting dozens of dissidents and journalists. The journalists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years.

Press freedom groups have protested that the imprisoned journalists have been held in unsanitary prison conditions and have inadequate medical care. "They are denied the same rights as other prisoners and their families have been harassed for campaigning against their incarceration and calling for their release," said White.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries