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Seventh Anniversary of the “Black Spring” Marked by Protest

March 18, 2010

On Monday, the Cuban opposition movement “The Ladies in White”(pictured right) began a week of protest to mark the seventh year anniversary of the “Black Spring,” a media crackdown where 75 journalists and librarians were imprisoned between March 18th-20th in 2003. The Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) states that 22 of these individuals still remain imprisoned for their dissident opinions

Reuters reports that the movement, which was awarded the 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, initiated a mostly silent protest, the only words spoken was the phrase “Zapata lives!”

“Zapata” refers to Orlando Zapata Tomoyo, a member of Cuba’s Republican Alternative Movement and one of Amnesty International “Prisoners of Conscience” who died in prison on February 23rd after a 85 day hunger strike. This course of action was in protest to poor prison conditions.

“All of the journalists are suffering from medical problems that have emerged or worsened during their..incarcerations,” a two year old CPJ report said.

Cuban officials have always asserted that those imprisoned are agents of the United States seeking to destabilize the country. The dissidents were convicted under Law 88 and Article 91, laws enacted by the Cuban government to protect the nation from foreign influence. Cuba has been subject to a 50 year embargo embargo by the U.S. which Amnesty International has described as “immoral.”

However, in an open letter to the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Reporters Without Borders called on Brazil and its regional partners to exert more pressure on the Cuban government to release the prisoners, stating that the regime’s struggles against the embargo “does not excuse the brutal treatment and humiliation of journalists, activists, trade unionists and their families.”

According to the Associated Press, Guillermo Farinas, a fellow imprisoned Cuban, was hospitalized earlier this month. The 48 year old independent journalist had began a hunger strike in response to the death of Zapata and to continue the protest for better prison conditions.

“He remains firm in his hunger strike,” his mother told the news service.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/Associated Press

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.