State Department Documents and Publications
November 28, 2006
NEWS FROM THE WASHINGTON FILE
U.S. Lauds Press Freedom Advocates' Criticism of Cuba;
Press groups also condemn attacks on media in Venezuela
Eric Green, USINFO Staff Writer
Washington -- The U.S. State Department has applauded a group of global press advocacy organizations for criticism of the Cuban regime's continued human rights violations against independent journalists in the Caribbean nation.
In a November 27 statement to USINFO, the State Department's Office for Cuban Affairs praised the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations for deploring the lack of press freedoms in Cuba and for what the office termed the "unjust jailing of journalists" throughout the island nation.
In a resolution adopted at its meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 21, the committee called for the "immediate" and "unconditional" release of all imprisoned journalists in Cuba and an end to government reprisals against the media in that country. The committee also demanded that the Cuban government "end its selective policy regarding the issuance of visas to foreign journalists."
The members of the global coordinating committee are: the International Association of Broadcasting, based in Montevideo, Uruguay; the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers; the World Press Freedom Committee, based in Reston, Virginia; and the Miami-based Inter-American Press Association.
The State Department's Cuban affairs office said in its November 27 statement to USINFO that another press group, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, "considers Cuba one of the top worst countries for journalists, and that in addition, over 330 prisoners of conscience continue to languish in Cuban jails."
The State Department Cuba office said the Cuban people "deserve to control their destiny; to do so they need the information that only a free press can provide." As the State Department has done many times previously, the office said the Cuban regime should "release political prisoners, respect human rights, and call for free and fair multi-party elections."
The Global Committee's resolution also called on the Cuban government "to respect international standards concerning the necessary mobility of journalists and to permit imprisoned journalists who already have visas to emigrate for health reasons to leave the country." It also demanded that the Internet in Cuba "be accessible by all Cuban citizens without restriction."
Reporters Without Borders said Cuba is on the list of 15 "Internet enemies" that the press group drew up for the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis, Tunisia, in November 2005. (See related article.)
The committee's resolution said many of the 26 journalists being held in Cuban jails are suffering from serious health problems. The prisoners are being subjected to conditions of "unhealthiness and overcrowding," which are "made worse by poor diet, lack of medical treatment, abuse of the inmates and forced sharing of cells with highly dangerous common prisoners," said the resolution.
The repression against Cuban independent journalists also is documented in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. Released March 8, the report says the Cuban Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press insofar as it conforms "to the aims of socialist society," a clause which the report said effectively bars free speech. In practice, criticism of the Cuban government and its leaders is not allowed, said the report.
In addition, the Bush administration created the Cabinet-level Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in October 2003 to explore ways in which the United States could help "hasten and ease" a democratic transition in Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice serves as chair of the commission, while the U.S. government's Cuba transition coordinator, Caleb McCarry, oversees the commission's day-to-day operations.
PRACTICES IN VENEZUELA DRAW FIRE
The Global Committee also issued in Rio de Janeiro a resolution on Venezuela assailing anti-press laws in that country. The committee's resolution said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's control of the country's executive branches has enabled him to "legislate and put pressure on the judiciary and the actions of the Attorney General's Office," leading to a "structured legal framework" that punishes the media "to the point of closing them down."
The resolution said that in recent months in Venezuela, violence against independent journalists and the news media has increased "dramatically, with the murder of journalists, sabotage and aggressions being reported."
The pressure against the country's media, said the resolution, has resulted in news executives and journalists being put on trial for "reporting and expressing opinions." Such pressure was said to restrict freedom of expression and encourage self-censorship in Venezuela.
The resolution on Venezuela warned that "any act of intimidation, hostility, or direct or indirect attack that restricts the work of journalists and the independent media or that limits or controls the free dissemination of ideas and opinions is considered an attack upon freedom of expression that affects information concerning the electoral process." That statement referred to the fact that Venezuela is holding presidential elections December 3.
The committee expressed its support for Venezuelan journalists and news media, and reiterated to Venezuela's government that it "should restore respect for and observance of the norms on which the right to freedom of expression and to information in that country are based." The committee said it would maintain a "permanent watch over the situation of independent journalists and news media in Venezuela."
The State Department's report on human rights practices said Venezuela's laws provide for freedom of speech and of the press, but that the "combination of new laws governing libel and broadcast media content, legal harassment, and physical intimidation resulted in limitations on these freedoms and a climate of self-censorship."
The Global Committee made similar denunciations June 4 regarding attacks against journalists in the Western Hemisphere. (See related article.)
The Global Committee's resolutions are available on the Web site of the Inter-American Press Association.
For more on U.S. policies in the region, see The Americas.
Sections of the State Department human rights report dealing with Cuba and Venezuela are available on the State Department Web site.
More information on the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is available on the White House Web site.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)