Five Months On, Cuban Journalist Still Held for Castro “Insult”Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias is one of two reporters in jail for asking difficult questions.
Five months after his arrest, Cuban journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias remains in jail on charges of insulting the country’s top leaders, with no trial date in sight.
At the end of January, the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International declared Martínez Arias a prisoner of conscience, arguing that the real reason for his detention was because he had reported on controversial subjects.
A reporter for the independent news agency Hablemos Press Information Centre, Martínez Arias was detained on September 16 while investigating a story about a damaged shipment of medicines that had been sent to Havana’s international airport by the World Health Organisation,.
The Cuban prosecution service has accused him of an offence known as “disrespect”, alleging that he insulted Raúl and Fidel Castro, the country’s present and past presidents. (See Cuban Journalist Faces Charge of Insulting Castros.)
The authorities regularly detain journalists for short periods of up to two weeks. See House Arrest for Cuban Journalist on the latest case, involving Héctor Julio Cedeño Negrín.
Martínez Arias is one of two Cuban journalists who have been detained for much longer. The other is José Antonio Torres, a former correspondent for the official newspaper Granma who was detained in 2011 and given a 14-year sentence in June 2012. He was convicted of espionage, although his real offence seems to have been writing highly critical pieces about a construction project in the eastern Santiago de Cuba region.
Martínez Arias, 41, was born in the Campechuela municipality of the eastern province of Granma. After leaving school, he initially worked as a carpenter, but after joining the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Party, he decided to become a journalist in 2009.
Interviewed a month before his arrest in September, he said he chose this career “because I knew there was a possibility of creating a free press for the good of the people; and secondly because I always knew it was necessary to inform the world about the reality of Cuba”.
Martínez Arias wrote for Hablemos Press, which reports on human rights violations in Cuba, and was one of the first journalists to cover last year’s outbreak of cholera in eastern Cuba.
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