Recent weeks have seen a new wave of repression of political dissidents and independent journalists. In early March Lexter Téllez Castro and Carlos Brizuela Yera of the Avileña Free Press Agency (APLA) and the Colegio of Independent Journalists were arrested by Ciego de Avila Province police. The March 4 arrests occurred when the two independent journalists visited the hospital to inquire after fellow journalist Jesús Alvarez Castillo of the Cuba Press Agency, who had been severely beaten a few hours earlier by the so-called "rapid reaction brigades." The beating cracked one of Alvarez Castillo's cervical vertebrae and caused him to lose consciousness. Also in early March the director of the Colegio of Independent Journalists, Normando Hernández González, woke to a police raid at his residence in the Camagüey Province town of Vertientes. Meanwhile, in nearby Las Tunas Province, journalist Juan Basulto Morell, 70, of the independent news agency Libertad was beaten by an unknown assailant. In Guantanamo, at Cuba's eastern tip, authorities arrested InfoLux Press news agency correspondent Luis Torres Cardosa. The Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Association, which counts half of Cuba's 120 independent journalists among its members, as well as the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), denounced these acts as part of a wave of official repression following the incidents at the Mexican Embassy in Havana. Repression with impunity is not limited to the alternative press. During the February 27 assault on the Mexican Embassy by 21 Cubans, journalists Andrew Cawthorne and Alfredo Tedeschi, both Reuters correspondents accredited in Cuba, were attacked by state security forces to prevent them from covering the incident. Tedeschi's camera was confiscated to prevent the transmission of video. That evening the police also moved other foreign journalists away from the scene by force, after they had come to report on the events at the embassy. This wave of repression coincides with the official celebration of Cuban Press Day on March 14, which ironically commemorates the independent newspaper Patria and its freedom-fighting publisher, José Martí. The pro-government symposium features panel discussions on "Public Opinion and Press Freedom." The purpose of the celebration is to sing the praises of the pro-government press and render homage to Fidel Castro. "March 14 is also a show of appreciation for [Castro]," wrote Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party. At the symposium, Cuban parliamentary speaker Ricardo Alarcón stressed that "never before has a committed and incisive activist press been so important," noting that in these times in which we live "man is robbed of the ability to think." Meanwhile, journalists like Julio César Gálvez, who left the ranks of the official press in July 2001, was detained for questioning and threatened with incarceration if he did not give up independent journalism. Gálvez currently lives and works in Havana. Also prohibited are activities aimed strictly at professional development and intellectual enrichment, such as the technical training course organized by the Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Association. The authorities blocked access to the Association's Havana offices last October and turned the course registrants away. The course had to be postponed. The police continue to watch independent journalists as a rule, in order to restrict their access to news sources. Obstacles to the practice of journalism are still common, such as intimidating phone calls, temporary detentions and forced relocation of reporters away from newsworthy events. On December 25 in the city of Florida, Camagüey, police beat five journalists attempting to cover the opening of an independent library. Among them were Téllez Castro, Brizuela Yera and Hernández González, who have been mentioned already in this report. On December 28 journalist María Elena Alpízar of Placetas, Villa Clara, was followed during a visit to Havana by a man who struck her in the face, damaging her sight in one eye. In January journalists Jorge Olivera and Carmelo Díaz were stopped and questioned in broad daylight on their way to cover an event. Journalist Carmen Carro was also violently accosted in January by police, who seized her tape recorder as she was on her way to report on a public demonstration by dissident groups. Just before the ceremonies organized throughout the country by the opposition movement to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the death of the four Cuban pilots shot down on February 24, 1996, journalists Isabel Rey and María Elena Alpízar were prevented from covering the events as they occurred. Alpízar was even forced into a police car to be taken outside the city. Carlos Alberto Domínguez of the Cuba Verdad news agency remains under arrest in Havana for attempting to report on the dissident movement's peaceful activities on February 24. Foreign travel and emigration permits continue to be delayed and withheld. In violation of immigration agreements in place between Havana and Washington, "white cards" granting official permission to leave the country are still being denied to Oswaldo Céspedes and the poet Manuel Vázquez Portal, who are both active in the independent journalism movement. The ban preventing CubaPress news director Raúl Rivero from leaving the country temporarily has been extended by way of retaliation to his wife, whose requests to visit her son abroad have repeatedly been denied. No progress has been made on the obstacles faced by independent journalists in getting their reports to foreign news outlets and distributors. News stories are still being transmitted by telephone (collect calls) and, from Havana, by fax; fax access is more difficult for correspondents outside the capital. Typewriters, tape recorders, and even fax machines and computers donated to journalists continue to be confiscated in police raids. According to Cubanet, which publishes the work of independent journalists in Miami, faxes have become more frequent in recent months. The movement currently has some 13 fax machines in Havana. In addition to the four titles mentioned in the last report, Cubanet's ongoing efforts to publish the work of independent journalists and poets include the novel Cartas a Leandro (Letters to Leandro) by Ramón Díaz Marzo, which appeared in the past six months, and a forthcoming book of articles by Manuel David Orrio. This year the third El Heraldo literary competition, an initiative by the Cuban Independent Libraries Project (PBIC), will award a monetary prize in the journalistic article category. The prize will be awarded in May and the winners published on the PBIC's website, which is posted from Miami with the cooperation of the Research Center for a National Option. E-mail and Internet access are still off-limits to members of the independent press. Average citizens who want a computer at home must first obtain a letter attesting to their "need," which must be signed by the minister with jurisdiction over the field in which they work. This letter is a stepping stone to the National Office of Technological Security, where a committee evaluates the application and forwards it to the Computer Security Department at the Interior Ministry for approval. The independent press cannot afford the online services offered by hotels and other tourist facilities using a system of cards paid for in dollars. Thus, they can only access the Internet on the black market or through a diplomatic mission. The irony of this state of affairs is that Cuba's government claims to be driving an internal technological revolution and championing poor and developing countries' rights in this area. At the Seventh Information Technology Conference held in Havana early this year, 35 countries discussed the "digital divide" between rich and poor countries. The Cuban delegation in particular advocated "widespread use of technologies as a necessary precondition for development." As part of this farce the Cuban government loudly trumpeted the Havana release of Propagandas Silenciosas (Silent Propaganda), a critical study by Ignacio Ramonet on information multinationals and manipulation of the news. The book launch at a downtown Havana theater was presided over by Fidel Castro, who personally managed the publication of the Cuban edition's 100,000 copy print run, over and above the 10,000 copies originally planned. Propagandas Silenciosas is also featured on the website of the pro-government Journalists Union of Cuba (UPEC). In December the leaders of Cuba's official press endorsed the Code of Ethics for government workers. Taken together with the Journalists' Code of Ethics approved in 1999, this document does nothing more than add toothless pages on journalists' right to report the news and provide a public service, while making the practice of journalism even more subservient to political interests. Future graduates of Cuba's two existing journalism schools will be required to complete an internship in keeping with the government's call for "activist journalism." They will be sent to Cuban medical outposts in poor African and Latin American countries to write propaganda stories on the performance of Cuban healthcare workers there.