Free Cuban journalists

June 14, 2006

Letter to the Editor- Alex Burgos (Raices de Esperanza)

Tonight, Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba's National Assembly, is scheduled to take part in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Convention in Fort Lauderdale. Participants should seize on this unique opportunity to hold Alarcón's feet to the fire regarding his government's hostility toward Cuban journalists on the island.

In the United States, the right of journalists to freely practice their trade is enshrined in the Constitution. Accordingly, NAHJ members have the right and responsibility to question Alarcón about their Cuban colleagues. They should also join groups like Reporters Without Borders in calling for greater press freedom in Cuba and the release of all imprisoned journalists.

One of these journalists, Armando Betancourt Reina, was detained on May 23. Following violent and unjust evictions by State Security in Camagüey, Betancourt did his job as a reporter by collecting facts and interviewing the victims. He later was arrested for 'public disorder,' taken to State Security headquarters, where he was reportedly beaten, and remains in prison.

Showcasing an enemy of press freedom at this convention should compel NAHJ members to reach out to Betancourt and others in Cuba's independent press corps, who would much rather report the news than make it. Doing so will give NAHJ members a more-complete perspective of Cuba and rightly shine the spotlight on its repressed journalists whose sole 'crimes' are seeking the truth and having the courage to report it.

ALEX BURGOS, Raíces de Esperanza, Washington, D.C.

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