Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: “Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.”

Note: This post was written by the editor of Angel’s blog.

Once again, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demonstrates its commitment to the serious situation in Cuba and writes an open letter to French President Francois Hollande.

On the occasion of the upcoming visit of Hollande to Cuba, they asked him to live up to the pledge he made in 2003 in a column in Le Nouvel Observateur, “Tell the Truth”, and asked him:

“Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information.”

Thank you from here on behalf of Angel Santiesteban-Prats for the relentless support provided by RSF for all those in Cuba who suffer the consequences of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information inside a dictatorship.

Eternal gratitude,

The Editor of Angel’s blog

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Cuba: “The silence of the friends of Cuba would be a form of complicity.” (Francois Hollande, 2003)

Published Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Monday, May 11, 2015, French President Francois Hollande will be the first French head of state to visit Cuba since 1959, and the first Western leader to do so since the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced last December 17. A historic visit, and a historic responsibility: to “tell the truth,” as in the title of the column about Cuba written by François Hollande (attached here) published in Le Nouvel Observateur in 2003. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sent an open letter to the President requesting him to urge his counterpart Raul Castro to improve the situation—which is dire—of the freedom of information on the island.

François Hollande
President of the Republic
Elysée Palace
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint‐Honoré
75008 París

May 7, 2015

Mr. President,

Before you make your trip to Cuba, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an organization that defends freedom of information, would like to call your attention to the situation—which remains very critical—of professional and amateur journalists in Cuba. This country, which every year ranks last in the Americas in the 2015 Worldwide Classification of Freedom of the Press by Reporters Without Borders, ranked 169th out of 180 countries. This position reflects the apparent lack of pluralism and the difficult and dangerous situation in which journalists and independent bloggers operate in order to evade censorship and to publish independent information.

With a historic visit comes a historic responsibility: in the column you wrote and which was published in Le Nouvel Observateur on February 27, 2003, entitled “Telling the Truth,” you stated bluntly: “Silence by the friends of Cuba would be a form of complicity facing a system that we condemn elsewhere,” and you urged “supporting the Cuban people to the end and telling the truth about the inhumanity, both of the embargo and of the Cuban regime. Both are unjustifiable.”

You had no doubt about the role of France: “We demand the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of censorship.” In the name of these principles, France cannot remain silent.

Mr. President, despite the desire for openness that the Cuban government now displays in the diplomatic arena, it retains an almost complete monopoly on information and does not tolerate the existence of any independent media on the island. The traditional press and online media remain censored; the internet remains under close surveillance.

An exception to this lead cloak: the website of the independent news agency Hablemos Press. Since 2011 Hablemos Press was inaccessible on the island, but last March 12th, as part of an anti-cybercensorship operation, Reporters Without Borders unlocked its website. The Cuban government did nothing, an exception that should be the rule. Mr. President, France cannot forget that an opening can only be real and beneficial to the population if the island is also open to plural and independent information.

Independent journalists and bloggers continue to exercise their profession in the midst of a difficult and dangerous situation: their computers are confiscated and their mobile phones are disconnected; they are cited by the State Security Department and ordered to change their editorial slant. Also, they continue to suffer intimidation, smear campaigns, death threats, assaults, arrests and arbitrary detentions.

Even the World Day of Press Freedom on May 3rd served as a pretext for repression. Three independent journalists covering the march of the Ladies in White were arrested in Havana. They had distributed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. President, France cannot continue to be silent about the arbitrary imprisonment of journalists.

Cuban authorities seem to increasingly prefer arbitrary detentions of short duration to prevent purveyors of information from doing their jobs and to keep them quiet. Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García (a blogger from Yayabo Press sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014), Jose Antonio Torres (a journalist from the official newspaper Granma, who was sentenced in July 2012 to 14 years in prison) and the blogger Ángel Santiesteban-Prats (author of the informative blog The Children Nobody Wanted, sentenced to five years in prison in 2013), are all currently serving long prison sentences.

Their crimes? Having spread information considered “anti-revolutionary” or “slanderous.” Ángel Santiesteban-Prats was sentenced to five years in prison for “domestic violence with injuries;” he was charged with a common criminal offense to reduce the political impact of his imprisonment. Since entering prison he has suffered ill-treatment and torture. A lack of legal clarity clouds his situation. Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information. France should also intervene with the Cuban authorities and ask them to allow access to Cuba by international organizations defending human rights and freedom of expression and information, such as Reporters Without Borders. This, keeping in mind your desired objective: “to tell the truth.”

Thanking you for your attention to this request, Mr. President, I send my warmest greetings.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire

Secretary General

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Published in Reporters without Borders

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