Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for the independent news centre Hablemos Press arrested on 30 September and held at the Alternative Penal Centre prison in Havana, is awaiting deportation from the capital for the ninth time in less than two years to his home town of Camagüey.
The move is the latest in a new crackdown on civic groups and dissident organisations in recent months that Reporters Without Borders condemned today as a attempt by the regime to roll back growing social demands the organisation warned would continue to grow in the wake of the release earlier this year of all the country’s remaining imprisoned journalists.
“We had hopes after the last journalists were freed, including those held since the 2003 “Black Spring” wave of arrests, and after the lifting of censorship of several websites and blogs,” the organisation said.
“These gestures of opening-up by the authorities have naturally spurred demands for more civil liberties, including the right to keep people informed and to move around freely. The case of Martínez symbolises the absurdity of the new repression. To deport him yet again from Havana, where he will return to after a while, makes no sense,” it said.
Martínez has been arrested three times before this year – on 23 April, 25 May and 2 June. Hablemos Press has recorded more than 2,500 arrests during the new crackdown for political reasons, along with brief detentions and forced internal exile, including 486 last month alone (the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation puts this figure at 563). The foreign media has also been censored, including withdrawal of accreditation from Mauricio Vicent, Cuba correspondent of the Spanish daily paper El País.
“Before the situation can be called a genuine opening-up, news diversity must be accepted, non-government media allowed, punishment for holding opinions ended and all Cubans allowed to have access to an uncensored Internet,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The government must also ratify the two United Nations civil and political rights agreements it signed in 2008.”
Reporters Without Borders has several times called for an end to the 49-year US embargo that has unjustly isolated Cuba and its people and also for the European Union to review its common policy about human rights in the island.
“These moves should be part of any opening-up,” it said, “but we deplore the fact that the international community, especially Latin American countries, does not speak up more in favour of civil liberties in Cuba and does not remind the authorities there of their obligations.”