Press freedom protest during Cuban foreign minister’s visit to UNESCO in Paris
Wearing prisoner uniforms in solidarity with the 23 journalists in Cuban jails, a score of Reporters Without Borders activists staged a loud protest outside UNESCO headquarters in Paris today as Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque was due to address a meeting inside.
A trusted aide of President Fidel Castro, Pérez Roque has said in the past of the journalists arrested during the Black Spring of 2003 : "They contribute to the US blockade against Cuba, manufacture false reports and conspire to destabilise the country. They endanger of the rights of all Cubans."
Reporters Without Borders said : "Twenty-one journalists who got jail sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years have been languishing in filthy cells for more than two years, sleeping in disgusting sheets (if they are lucky enough to have any), wearing uniforms that are passed from prisoner to prisoner without ever being washed, and eating foul-tasting gruels rarely fit for consumption."
The press freedom organisation added : "Most of them have contracted chronic ailments in prison and are in a very worrying physical condition. As if that were not enough, they are routinely humiliated by guards or shut in cells with common criminals. This is the situation we wanted to highlight as a Cuban minister comes to Paris to talk about culture and education."
Reporters Without Borders said two more journalists were imprisoned in Cuba in July and August, one of whom, Oscar Mario González, is still awaiting trial and faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.
In today’s protest, the Reporters Without Borders activists wore handcuffs, gags and numbered uniforms. They beat on billycans, displayed a banner with the words, "Welcome to Cuba, where journalists have no rights" and played a soundtrack of Cuban dance music that was suddenly interrupted by the noise of cell doors clanging shut, chains rattling and inmates crying out.
Reporters Without Borders set up a sponsorship system 16 years ago in which international news media are urged to adopt an imprisoned journalist. More than 200 news organisations around the world are currently supporting jailed colleagues by regularly asking the appropriate authorities to release them and by publicising their cases so they are not forgotten.
Ricardo González is being supported in this way by Alternatives Internationales, Amiens Métropole (JDA), the Madrid Press Association, Cambio 16, Corriere, Canadese, El Mundo, El Pais, El Punto, France Soir, Grands Reportages, www.cubantrip.com, Ici, L’Express, La Tribune, La Vanguardia, Le Figaro, Le Ligueur, Le Maine Libre, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Nouvelliste, Le Télégramme de Brest et de l’Ouest, Okapi, Ouest France, PACA Informations économiques, the Prix Bayeux des correspondants de guerre, Radio Classique, Radio Côte d’Amour, Radio Nostalgie (Belgique), RFI, Servimedia, StarPhoenix, The Concordian, The Telegram and Tiempo.
Fabio Prieto Llorente is supported by Bernard Lehideux (a Member of the European Parliament), Coup d’oeil vers l’avenir, the Festival International du Scoop et du Journalisme, Libération, the Arlanc city hall and Métro Belgique.Miguel Galván Gutiérrez is supported by the Nancy city hall.