New Press Crackdown in Cuba p. 77

By: Mark Fitzgerald After progress, harsh criminal penalties for independent journalists
In 1998, a leading press freedom group says, Cuba's policy toward journalists mixed a dash of progress with its 40-year-old stew of repression.
Even as the International Press Institute (IPI) reported the mixed picture in 1998, however, Fidel Castro was proposing much harsher criminal penalties for independent journalists. In legislation adopted by the National Assembly last week, Castro imposed a 30-year prison sentence and 100,000-peso fine on dissidents or those who collaborate in the ""constant economic, political, diplomatic, propaganda, and ideological war.""
Among the possible offenders: Independent Cuban journalists or dissidents who have ""direct or third-party collaboration with radio or television stations, newspapers, magazines, or other mass media.""
In Fidel Castro's Cuba, it seems, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
According to the just-released IPI report on press freedom worldwide, Cuba in 1998 showed some unusual stirrings of openness: permitting The Associated Press to open a permanent bureau for the first time in three decades, accrediting hundreds of U.S. journalists for the Pope's visit, and granting the pontiff extraordinary access to the official media.
At the same time, IPI says, ""Fidel Castro's Communist regime and its intelligence apparatus, the State Security Agency, continue to clamp down on Cuban journalists attempting to report independently on developments in the country. The authorieties routinely harass, threaten, arrest, and imprison journalists, often with a goal of 'persuading' them into leaving the country.""
IPI documents what it calls a ""campaign of persecution ""against about 40 journalists who attempt to work outside the state media. Amond the worst-off of the independent journalists, IPI says, is Bernardo Arevalo of LInea Sur Press, who has been repeatedly beaten and threatened with death by state security agents during imprisonment. Others imprioned include Lorenzo Paez of Cuba's Independent Press Bureau and Juan Carlos Recio Martinez of the Cuba Press Agency.
IPI portrays a dictatorship that in 1998 still resembles George Orwell's ""1984"": ""The Communist Regime controls all that is published, while access to the Internet is also strictly regulated. Typewriters must be registered; owning a fax machine or photocopier without authorization is punishable by imprisonment.
?(Fidel Castro) [Photo]
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 20, 1999) [Caption]


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