CUBA The government maintains its hard-line control of independent journalists and press. Among noteworthy incidents were the arrest and expulsion of foreign correspondents visiting Cuba and intensification of political propaganda in the official media. In August, three Swedish journalists were arrested, interrogated and deported from the country and a French journalist was questioned when she was about to board a plane to return home. In both cases, the journalists had met with representatives of the independent press in Cuba. While propaganda campaigns in the media are nothing new, it is worth noting that the current daily barrage of TV programs, rallies, round tables and political slogans has significantly reduced the time for news programs. Luis Alberto Rivera became another target in the direct repression of alternative journalism. He heads a small group of journalists who belong to the Agencia de Prensa Libre, based in the eastern city of Santiago. In August and September, Rivera was the object of string of repressive actions. Among them were arrests, interrogations, spot body searches in public places, threats of imprisonment and permanent persecution, including house searches and tracking of his movements. Throughout the country, pressure in different guises and modalities weighs on independent journalists but in Havana it has gone to extremes. A two-year-old girl, Gabriela Céspedes ― the daughter of journalist Dorka Céspedes of the independent agency Havana Press ― was expelled in September from a children’s center which she attended. She was thrown out on orders of agents from the Department of State Security who told the center’s management that “her mother carries out counterrevolutionary activities.” According to the independent agencies operating in Cuba, about 15 journalists have suffered different forms of repression during the period. At the beginning of October, Jaime Leigonier Fernández, an independent journalist of the NotiCuba agency, was detained by State Security agents for three hours and threatened with being charged under Law 88. The 46-year-old journalist was dragged from his Havana home at about 2:45 p.m. by two agents of the Department of State Security who failed to tell his family to where and why he was being taken away. At the stroke of 5 p.m., Leigonier Fernández said he was taken to a house in Havana where, among other warnings, he received a threat to prosecute him under Law 88 for his journalistic work. The newsman had joined NotiCuba one month before, catching the eye of the political police who have recently targeted those who become independent journalists. The police aim to discourage any renewed flourishing of independent journalism, following its past decline in size due to the considerable number of independent journalists who have gone into exile. Law 88, known as the Gag Law, stipulates up to 20 years in prison for those who disseminate news with the alleged intent, in concert with other persons, of facilitating implementation of the Helms-Burton Law and other U.S. measures against Cuba. On August 9, agents from the Department of State Security masquerading as journalists of the independent news agency Cuba Press entered the apartment in which the agency had operated until July. They carted off boxes, files, office equipment, magazines, journalism books and the agency’s general documentation. The situation of imprisoned journalists did not improve. There are obstacles placed on the inmates receiving mail and published texts, both which are constantly seized. For example, government personnel took away all the books that Joel Díaz Fernández, the director of the Cooperativa Avileña of Independent Journalists (CAPI), had in his cell. They have stopped him from receiving any written matter, including on religion and philosophy. After more than 80 hours in custody and interrogation, Havana Press journalists Jadir and Jesús Hernández, were freed on September 18. They were threatened with being charged under Law 88 for disseminating information, outside the control of government, to foreign news media. They were also warned they might be prosecuted for contempt and the dissemination of “false news.” Iria Rodiles, an independent journalist writing under the pen name Ernestina Rosell, was interrogated for four hours by State Security agents on September 15. In spite of the harassment, one can see an increase in the groups practicing alternative journalism. An agency was founded recently in Camagüey province, and it is believed that the movement could grow in coming months. The police continue to deny exit permits to four journalists who hold U.S. visas. They are Ohlays Vítores, Jesús Labrador Díaz, Vicente Escobal Rabeiro and Gustavo Caldero. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, Joel de Jesús Díaz Hernández and Manuel González Catellanos remain in prison. The three are poorly fed, have inadequate medical care and are regularly humiliated and subjected to insults. González Castellanos, jailed in eastern Holguín province, is in a prison where numerous inmates have AIDS or tuberculosis, according to his family. At present, there are nearly 20 news groups who operate outside government control. In addition, there are independent journalists who are not members of any agency. While a significant number of independent journalists have left Cuba for exile, new young journalists are joining the agencies. Between March and July, Cuba’s independent press was marked by arrests, detentions and a violent incident in which police in Santiago beat journalists. On July 13, opposition groups layed a floral wreath in the sea in memory of the victims of the tugboat May 13, sunk by Cuban forces off Havana. Police disrupted the ceremony and hit Santiago Press reporters Marilyn Lahera and José Antonio Reinier, who were covering the event. A few days before, on July 7, a State Security agent visited the Havana home of journalist Carmelo Díaz, director of the Agency of Free Labor Unions, threatening to take him to prison if he continued disseminating information on labor topics. On July 15, Interior Ministry officials took journalist Ricardo González Alfonso to a residence on the outskirts of the city and interrogated him for six hours. They sought to persuade him to become a government secret agent among the ranks of alternative journalists. He publicly denounced their offer. On July 16, two journalists ― José Antonio Formaris and Osvaldo Céspedes ― were detained by the police as they headed to Mass at a Havana church to commemorate a Roman Catholic feast day. In July journalist Víctor Rolando Arroyo was released after serving a six-month sentence in prison in the western province of Pinar del Río. It should be noted that in September 2000, the Cuban government announced it would allow two U.S. publishing companies to establish permanent bureaus in Cuba. The companies are Belo Corp., owner of The Dallas Morning News, and Tribune Company, owners of 11 newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant. The Dallas Morning News, the Sun-Sentinel and Chicago Tribune plan on having full-time correspondents operating before the end of 2000.