Media Watchdog Group Protests Harassment Of Cuban Journalists

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

( - The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, an international media advocacy group, is protesting the way the Cuban government questioned three Cuban reporters who work outside the state-run media.

Robert Menard, the director of Reporters without Borders, said the group has sent a letter to Cuban Interior Minister General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, requesting that the Castro government "put an end to the state's pressure on journalists."

Menard said Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez and Carlos Brizuela Year, who work for non-government news agencies in Cuba, were questioned for eight hours last Wednesday. Menard also said that police detained Dorka de Cespedes of the anti-Castro Havana Press just before she had planned to cover an unauthorized demonstration against the Castro government in Havana.

Most independent journalists in Cuba work for organizations based in the United States. But groups opposed to Fidel Castro also run their own news organizations, which the Castro government has denounced as "counterrevolutionary."

Menard said more than 15 independent Cuban reporters have been taken in for questioning since the beginning of the year, including three this week.

The Castro government issued no official reaction.

In its 2001 annual report, Reporters Without Border said it believes that despite the Castro government's harassment, the number of independent journalists in Cuba continues to grow, thanks to the Internet.

"Access to the Internet is strictly regulated and is restricted in practice to foreign companies and government bodies. Independent journalists, banned from publishing in their own country, count on organizations of Cubans living in exile in the United States to publish their reports, usually on Websites," the report said.

The report added, "Thanks to this support and to the international recognition they have received since the Ibero-American summit held in Havana in November 1999, the ranks of independent journalists are growing. Cuba now has over 100 [independent journalists] working for about 20 news agencies, which the authorities still refuse to acknowledge."