CUBA Press freedom in Cuba remains in a long, dark night with no hope. To be a journalist independent of the official line is the most heroic profession in the country. These journalists have suffered harassment, persecution and imprisonment. Now they are being cut off from the rest of the world. In recent weeks telephone calls to radio stations and other media outlets in the United States and Spain have gradually been cut off, and at this point much of the independent journalism in Cuba has been silenced. Some of the telephones used by small independent agencies have been out of service for weeks, or their numbers have been assigned to other types of institutions “for technical reasons.” This happened to the equipment used by the Proyecto Nueva Prensa Cubana, made up of five agencies in Havana. For more than a month, its phone number was used by an organization of Chinese citizens and later it was cut for a month. Opposition media outlets suggested that the authorities took advantage of disputes with the U.S. government and telephone companies to get rid of independent journalists. It was even very difficult to receive the report from IAPA’s regional vice president in Cuba, Raúl Rivero. After the recent imposition of new restrictions on communication with the outside, it was impossible to reach Rivero from the United States. He was contacted through Cuban dissidents in third countries, such as Canada, Spain and Costa Rica, and in Puerto Rico. Paradoxically, after the government finally authorized the opening of news bureaus of the Tribune Company and the Dallas Morning News of Texas at the end of last year, foreign journalists in Havana are subjected to attacks by the official newspaper Granma and to government surveillance. British journalist Pascual Fletcher, correspondent of the daily Financial Times of London and a stringer for Reuters, was expelled from the country in February after being harshly criticized by the government. The major developments concerning the situation of the press are the following: On November 1, Rivero had to decline for the third time an invitation to the Miami Book Fair to present his book, “Ojo, Pinta,” a compilation of interviews with 11 anti-government artists who live in Cuba. The government denied him permission to leave the country. On November 9, State Security agents arrested independent journalist Omar Rodríguez Saluds of the independent agency Nueva Prensa. On January 7, the official daily Granma attacked foreign correspondents accredited in Cuba, accusing them of not reporting objectively about the participation of Cubans in celebrations organized by the government to mark the 42 nd anniversary of the revolution. “The agencies were silent about such great happiness,” said Granma. The strongest criticism was against Pascual Fletcher, the correspondent of the Financial Times of London. Granma called him “a habitual intriguer who attempts to undermine the Cuban revolution.” It also attacked The Associated Press for describing the celebration of the revolution as “cold.” On January 12, State Security agents arrested Ivan Pillip, former finance minister of the Czech Republic, and Czech student leader Jean Bubenik who were visiting journalists Antonio Femenías and Roberto Valdivia of Agencia Patria in Ciego de Avila. They were accused of “association intended to provoke a rebellion.” Femenías and Valdivia were also detained and interrogated for several hours on January 16 and 17. They later made a statement denying police allegations that they had received money and material. On January 17, the government ordered the release of independent journalist Jesús Joel Hernández, editor of the Avileña Cooperative Agency of Independent Journalists in Ciego de Avila province in the east central part of the island. He had been in prison two years. Díaz Hernández had been serving a four-year sentence since 1999 for his “socially dangerous” work as a journalist, and he had been in solitary confinement until August of last year. On February 11, there was a fire in the recently opened office of The Associated Press in Havana. It destroyed equipment, files and furniture. The authorities attributed the fire to “problems in the electrical installations.” On February 15, police detained independent journalist Ricardo González. He was released after a four-hour interrogation, but his home has been under surveillance and he has been harassed. He has been threatened with application of Law 88, known as the Gag Law, with provides for up to 20 years in prison for anyone who collaborates with foreign journalists or gives interviews to radio stations abroad. On February 26, Manuel González Castellanos, the Cuba Press correspondent in Holguín in the eastern part of the country, was released after serving a 2 ½-year prison term for libeling Fidel Castro. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, founder of the independent press agency Línea Sur, is still in prison. He was sentenced to a six-year term for “libeling the chief of state.” There are only 100 independent journalists left in Cuba, working for 20 agencies that are not approved by the government and that are subjected to continuous harassment. The intense and indiscriminate police harassment of independent journalists, and, now, the restrictions on communication with the rest of world, make their work very difficult and truly heroic.