Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cuba's Independent Journalists Vow to Keep Presses Rolling

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cuba's Independent Journalists Vow to Keep Presses Rolling

Article excerpt

A YEAR ago, Rafael Solano was enthusiastically making phone calls and riding his bicycle around Havana, developing contacts for his new Habana Press news agency.

Today Mr. Solano awaits a trial that could land him in one of Cuba's infamous prisons for up to three years. Apparently the journalist's determination to give Communist-run Cuba an independent press makes him a dangerous enemy of the Cuban regime.

Solano, who resigned as a government radio journalist in March 1995 to protest Cuba's government-controlled press, faces a charge of "association to commit crimes." That could bring Solano, the only Cuban journalist to win the prestigious King of Spain Prize, a sentence of one to three years. And if, as the government has hinted, a charge of "enemy propaganda" is added, the sentence could be longer. The "association" charge is normally reserved for gang members planning robberies, murders, or other crimes, notes Solano's attorney, Jose Angel Izquierdo, "none of which has anything to do with the activities Solano was involved in." "I didn't organize any gangs to commit crimes; I organized a press agency to disseminate information," Solano says. Solano's mother says she knows exactly why her son already spent 42 days in Havana's notorious Villa Marista prison, and why he now awaits a trial. "Cubans and especially a journalist are supposed to think what they {in the government} think," says Petronila Morales. "When you don't, and you let it be known, this is what happens." After quitting his job, Solano formed Habana Press, which he said would disseminate "objective and factual" news from the island. Inside Cuba, all but government-run media are prohibited, but the agency has had some success sending dispatches to the US, Latin America, and Europe. The agency's dispatches have been picked up with regularity by the US-government-sponsored Radio Marti, which enjoys a wide audience in Havana. …

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