03 November 1999


MIAMI, Florida (Nov. 3) -The Inter American Press Association said today it was concerned at verbal attacks Cuban President Fidel Castro made about 17 independent journalists. In a lengthy broadcast speech made on November 1, Castro mentioned the journalists by name and accused them of being "counter-revolutionary leaders" and "conspirators" by being paid off by U.S. interests in Havana. The hemisphere free-press organization warned that such accusations put the physical and mental well-being of the journalists and their family members at risk in light of a recently-enacted press law that makes it a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment to engage in the kind of activities Castro cited. The chairman of the IAPAs Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Rafael Molina, said he shares the fears of the Cuban dissident journalists whose voices the Castro regime seeks to silence on the basis of false accusations. Molina, editor of the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, daily newspaper Listín Diario, was speaking in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was visiting with other members of an IAPA delegation to express the organizations concern at a proposal to include a provision in the new national constitution requiring news to be "truthful, opportune and impartial." He called this new development in Cuba "one more demonstration of the intolerance of Castros regime, which places that country at the top of the list of nations where there is no freedo of the press." Among the journalists singled out by Castro were Raúl Rivero, resident Regional Vice Chairman for Cuba of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information; Mercedes Moreno and Omar Rodríguez Saludes, of the Nueva Prensa Agency; José Antonio Sánchez, Tania Quintero and Ricardo González of Cuba Press; Manuel David Orrio and Jesús Zúñiga of the Independent Journalists Cooperative; Néstor Baguer and Lucas Garvo of APIC; Santiago Santana, of Oriente Press; María de los Angeles, González Amaro, of UPECI; Jorge Olivera, Maria del Carmen Carro and Lázaro Rodríguez Torres, of Havana Press; Edel José García, of CNP, and Ramón Alberto Gruz-Lima, of Patria. According to Castro, the journalists are attempting to disrupt the upcoming Ninth Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in Havana. "The independent journalists only guarantee in the world, and especially for the Cuban people, is access to information, which in this case is controlled by the government," said IAPA President Tony Pederson. Pederson, editor of the Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas, stressed that the IAPA will unswervingly maintain its campaign on behalf of Cubas independent press "until the harassment and intimidation end."