Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Castro government to release imprisoned journalist José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández because of his deteriorating health.
“The condition of José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández requires care that cannot be provided in jail, the prison doctors have recognised it themselves”, said the press freedom organisation.
“The journalist’s recovery calls for him to be freed immediately, or failing, that to be granted a release on licence for health reasons. We hope that the Cuban authorities will respond favourably to this humanitarian request”, it added.
Doctors meeting in Havana on 9 February 2006 confirmed that Izquierdo Hernández’s condition in Guanajay prison in Havana province had seriously deteriorated over the past nine months, the CubaNet news agency reported.
Gastroenterologist Dr Vazquez found lesions in the stomach while carrying out an endoscopy on the journalist. The specialist detected a stomach inflammation and recent gastro-intestinal bleeding and recommended a strict diet.
Once informed of the specialist’s diagnosis, Dr Miriela Gómez Rodríguez, head of medical services at Guanajay prison told the journalist that he could not be treated in prison. The doctor prescribed a treatment to “ease an inflammation of the gastric mucus”. “That’s all we can do”, he explained.
Izquierdo Hernández, 40, was arrested on 18 March 2003 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. The former head of an independent library in Güines, Havana province, where he originates from, was working before his arrest for the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency. Two other dissident journalists, who worked for the same agency, have also been in jail since 2003 : Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez and Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández, sentenced respectively to 20 and 18 years in prison. A third member of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, Oscar Mario González Pérez, has been held without trial since 22 July 2005.
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, read here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Castro to release independent journalists in prison. You can sign the petition here. (A technical note: Reporters Without Borders is based in Paris, so the confirmation e-mail you will receive after signing the petition will be in French. Just in case you don't read French, the confirmation e-mail asks you click on the link to complete the petition signature process. Castro won't receive your message until you click on the link.)
For more on the Cuban dissidents, including a chance to "adopt a dissident," see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of independent journalists still on the island. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet.