Journalist Manuel Antonio González Casellanos
Imprisoned in Cuba

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October 16, 1998

 

Fidel Castro Ruz
President of Cuba
c/o United Nations Mission
New York, NY

 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to condemn the imprisonment of journalist Manuel Antonio González Castellanos. González, a correspondent for the independent news service CubaPress, was arrested on charges of sedition (desacato) on the evening of October 1 in San Germán, Holguín Province, by State Security agents.

According to local journalists and other sources, González was arrested after he made negative statements about Your Excellency to State Security agents who had stopped and questioned him as he was returning from a friend's house. When family members learned of González's detention and tried to contact him at the local police station the following morning, they were met by a group of protesters who insulted them. González's relatives were so indignant that they painted "Down with Fidel (Abajo Fidel)" on the walls of their house. Later that day, an estimated 2,000 people gathered outside González's home and screamed insults. State Security agents broke into his home, and beat and arrested two of Gonzalez's relatives along with a political dissident who was also present in their house. According to local sources, many of the protesters who gathered in front of González's house were farm workers who had been told they would be docked a day's pay if they did not participate in the demonstration. After the protest rally, the González family's phone was cut off for nearly a week.

While the sedition charges against González stem from an interaction that is unrelated to his journalistic work, local journalists suspect that he was deliberately provoked by State Security agents in retaliation for reports filed from Holguín about the activities of political dissidents. Such suspicions are given credence by an incident that occurred in July, when González was contacted by a man claiming to be conveying information from a Cuban exile in Miami. When González met with the source, he was questioned about his journalistic work and told that a Cuban exile group wanted to recruit him for subversive activities. González declined the offer and later determined that the man with whom he had met had never been in touch with the exiles in Miami he claimed to represent. González believes the man was a State Security agent attempting to entrap him.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we fear that González was provoked, detained, and imprisoned in retaliation for his work as a journalist. Such action would be a clear violation of Article 19 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

In the two weeks since González was arrested, he has been moved from San Germán to the Holguín Provisional Prison in the provincial capital. We call on Your Excellency to drop the sedition charges against González and release him, along with journalists Lorenzo Páez N7uacute;ñez from the Buró de Prensa Independiente de Cuba (BPIC), who was convicted of defamation on July 12, 1997; and Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, founder of the Lí in prison for sedition on October 31, 1997. In addition, we urge you to suspend the sentence against Juan Carlos Recio Martínez, CubaPress correspondent in Villaclara, who is serving a year of hard labor without confinement for "crimes against state security."

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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Fidel Castro Ruz
President of Cuba
c/o United Nations Mission
New York, NYFidel Castro Ruz
President of Cuba
c/o United Nations Mission
New York, NY

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