Archive | September, 2015

The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

19 Sep
Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com

Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com

Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes, this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less in the island’s repressive atmosphere.

Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September 19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military regime has left many people dazed and confused.

The twisted nature of Cuba’s leadership — stuck like a peg in the daily life of the island since 1959 — has taken the liberty of deciding which steps its countrymen must take without allowing questions to be raised. Rather than being a cause for celebration, the specific details of this phony amnesty are of a source of embarrassment and shame.

The internal gulag

There is something the intended audience for this “humanitarian gesture” — Pope Francis, Cardinal Ortega, the bishops, priests, laity and all the faithful mentioned in the message of thanks published in Thursday’s special edition of Gaceta de Cuba, issued by the Ministry of Justice — should know. Continue reading

Three Al Jazeera Reporters Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Egypt / Luis Felipe Rojas

3 Sep
The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

AFP/ Khaled Desouki. The journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera,  Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, seated in the prisoners’ cell during their trial in Cairo on 29th of August 2015

This Saturday, an Egyptian tribunal sentenced  the three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera to three years in jail,despite the international campaign for their acquittal.

The Australian Peter Greste, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were found guilty of having “spread false information” and of having worked in Cairo without the necessary permission.

The judge Hasan Farid also indicated that “they were not journalists” as they hadn’t registered as such with the relevant authorities.

The reporters were accused of having supported by their coverage the Muslim Brotherhood formed by the Islamic President Mohamed Mursi, toppled by the army in 2013.

Fahmy and Mohamed were present at the tribunal and Greste was sentenced in his absence, after having been expelled to Australia in February by presidential decree.

The verdict is “a deliberate attack on freedom of he press” was Al Jazeera’s reaction in a communique.

“The only fair outcome of this case was acquittal” due to the “lack of evidence”, declared Amal Clooney, Fahmy’s lawyer, after the verdict.

Before the hearing, Amal Clooney indicated that there would be meetings with responsible government officials to request, if they should be sentenced, a presidential pardon or expulsion.

Translated by GH

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Asks Maduro to Cease Harassment of the Media

1 Sep
Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reacted with “profound concern” to the lawsuit filed by the President of the National Assembly, deputy Diosdado Cabello,against the newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual, and the website LaPatilla.com. It urged national authorities to “cease these acts of harassment that deepen the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in the country and threaten the media and critical journalists in Venezuela,particularly in an election year.

The case that Cabello filed against the media, and the judicial decisions that several judges have rendered in it—like the one prohibiting 22 executives of the defendant companies from leaving the countryor the one last week seizing the headquarters of El Nacional—worry the CIDH, a body that is aware of the support that the Supreme Court (TSJ) gave the legislator last May when it described as “lacking foundationthe accusations that he was linked to drug trafficking, as had been reported in Spanish and U.S. media, in stories that were republished in the country by the defendants.

This current situation is aggravated by a public statement unfavorable to the media outlets, issued by the Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority in Venezuela, about the factsunderlying the complaint, and which would be considered by a lower court. On its website the Court expressed its solidarity with the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, and without due process ora hearing by the lower court handling the case, advanced its opinion that the disclosure of such information ‘lacking truthfulness carries sanctions under national law,'” said the Commission.

The organization, in a letter also signed by the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, demanded that the authorities cease their attacks against the media, both verbal and judicial, in order to ensure that the legislative elections scheduled for December 6 are transparent.

“The Commission and the Special Rapporteur consider that in the context of an election year, faced with a reduction of pluralistic news reporting, and diminishing independent media, it is urgent to stop the verbal and judicial harassment that restricts the free flow of ideas and opinions. In this context, the concerted state actions aimed at encircling those media that havean editorial line independent or critical of the government are of special concern to the Commission and, in turn, represent a very significant threat to independent journalism andinvestigation, to freedom of expression, and to the free flow of information publicly available in Venezuela ahead of the elections to be held in December 2015.

Source: El Universal

Translated by Tomás A.

Translated by Tomás A.