1. Cuba, the world’s biggest prison for journalists
Pages on independent journalists in Cuba
Promulgated in February 1999, the “88 Law” – soon nicknamed the “gagging law” in dissident circles – weighs like the Sword of Damocles over any person who “collaborates, by any means whatsoever, with radio or television programmes, magazines or any other foreign media” or “provides information” considered likely to serve US policy. The law provides for very heavy sentences: up to 20 years’ imprisonment, confiscation of all personal belongings and fines up to 100,000 pesos (close to 4,800 dollars, while the average Cuban salary is 250 pesos or 12 dollars per month). This law, that no court has taken advantage of as yet, also provides for punishment for “the promotion, organisation or encouragement of, or the participation in meetings or demonstrations.
Gagging Law text (Spanish)
In Cuba, they don’t just censor you now – they throw you in jail.
President Fidel Castro’s police rounded up 26 independent journalists on 18 March, along with more than 50 political dissidents, all for the same reason. At the beginning of April, Cuban courts dispatched each of these journalists to prison for between 14 and 27 years after three days of sham trials. They were punished for allegedly working with the United States “against the independence and territorial integrity of the state,” which is a crime under article 91 of the Cuban criminal code and under article 88 on “protecting national independence” (known as the “gag law”).
Those targeted had regularly published articles in the foreign press, mostly American, since no independent or privately-owned newspaper or radio or TV station is allowed in Cuba, and had recently dared to start up two underground publications in Cuba itself – “De Cuba” and “Luz Cubana” – which was unprecedented in the 44 years of President Castro’s rule.
This new persecution of political opponents and independent journalists, as well as the execution on 11 April of three would-be refugees who hijacked a ferry in a bid to reach Florida, has revolted democrats around the world, even leading the European Union to reconsider its future economic cooperation with Cuba.
Reporters Without Borders invites the public to sign a petition calling for the immediate release of the 26 journalists, who have been thrown in jail to stop them speaking out freely.
The arrests mean Cuba is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists and that President Castro has become the “Maximum Leader” of predators of press freedom.