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Cuban journalist released, exiled; 16 now free

New York, September 27, 2010--Imprisoned Cuban journalist Miguel Galván Gutierrez was released from jail and flown to Madrid on Saturday as part of a July agreement between the Havana government and the Catholic Church. Sixteen journalists jailed in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown have now been freed and exiled as part of the agreement.

"Although I am currently fighting with some health issues resulting from a seven year- period in jail, I am ready to continue reporting and working on behalf of democratic ideals in Cuba," Galván told CPJ in a phone interview today. Despite a deep desire to stay in Cuba, Galván said, he decided to leave the island for the sake of his long-suffering family. "I was ready to face any obstacle in my attempt to practice independent reporting. But as soon as I was jailed, I realized that all the obstacles had been transferred to my family," Galván said.

A journalist for the independent news agency Havana Press, Galván was sentenced to 26 years in prison shortly after his arrest in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism. Four journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown remain in jail, as does one other journalist who was detained later, CPJ research shows.

Following talks with leaders of Cuba's Catholic Church, President Raúl Castro's government agreed in July to free a total of 52 dissidents arrested in the 2003 crackdown. Spanish government officials also participated in the talks.

All 16 of the journalists released thus far were immediately whisked into exile in Spain. (One has since relocated to Chile.) So far, the Cuban government has not freed imprisoned reporters who want to remain on the island after their release.

A story Thursday in the Madrid-based daily El País quoted Spanish officials as saying that imprisoned reporters who want to stay in Cuba upon release will be freed through a special parole program. Rights groups on the island decried the parole program as an effort to keep close control of the detainees even after their release, the Miami-based daily El Nuevo erald reported. The Cuban government has not confirmed the existence of the parole program.

Below is a capsule report on Galván's case from CPJ's annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

 

Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, Havana Press

Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

 

Galván Gutiérrez, a journalist for the independent news agency Havana Press, was tried in April 2003 under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for acting against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." He was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

 

Galván Gutiérrez, 44, was being held in Guanajay Prison, in the western province of Havana, near his home, his sister, Teresa Galván Gutiérrez, told CPJ. Though prison conditions were harsh, she said, they were better than at the maximum-security Agüica Prison, where the journalist was imprisoned until June 2007.

 

Galván Gutiérrez was housed alone in a cell in which, he told his sister, he could read and study, although he said books were hard to come by. The journalist suffered severe joint and back pain, she said.

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