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Cuba Targets Independent Press

Reporters Without Borders is focusing a spotlight on the Cuban government's "continuing harassment of independent journalists."

In a letter to the European Union, the Paris-based monitoring group said that independent journalists in Cuba are unable to work freely or defend themselves against the Cuban government's "state repression." According to Reporters Without Borders, Cuba continues to be the world's second-biggest "prison for the press," after China. The group said in its letter to the E-U that twenty journalists arrested in March 2003 remain in prison under "intolerable" conditions. A number of the jailed journalists are seriously ill but "have no access to the treatment they need."

And there are other cases as well. Oscar Mario Gonzalez Perez of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro independent news agency has spent more than six months in prison since his arrest on July 22nd, 2005. He faces up to twenty years in prison under Law Eighty-Eight, which claims to protect "Cuba's national independence and economy." Yet no precise charge has been brought against him.

Independent journalists are not the only targets of harassment and arrest by the Cuban authorities. The nongovernmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation recently said that the number of political prisoners in the country rose to three-hundred-thirty-three last year. The commission accused Cuban President Fidel Castro of encouraging hostile demonstrations outside the homes of dissidents to intimidate his critics.

In recent months, mobs have stepped up attacks on Cuban democracy advocates. Cuban dissidents told the Miami Herald newspaper that there have been more than fifty such attacks in the past six months.

President George W. Bush says that the United States "will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity," including the rule of law, equal justice, religious tolerance, and free speech. America, he said, "will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world." Among them are independent Cuban journalists and activists jailed for exercising their right to speak freely.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.