Cuba has long maintained nearly complete control over the island’s media, and Hablemos Press has occupied a murky legal gray area.
‘‘The imprisonment of Calixto Martinez goes to show that authorities in Cuba are far from accepting that journalists have a role to play in society, including by investigating possible wrongdoings,’’ said Guadalupe Marengo, deputy Americas director at Amnesty International.
In a recently released press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Cuba dropped four spots this year to 171st out of 179 countries — ahead of only Vietnam, China, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
There have been some signs of opening, however. In 2011, President Raul Castro urged state media to be bolder with more ‘‘objective, constant and critical’’ reporting.
The Catholic Church is allowed to publish its own independent magazine, Palabra Nueva, bloggers are openly critical of the government and state TV recently began carrying programming from Venezuela-based Telesur news channel.
Amnesty has strict criteria for how it designates prisoners of conscience. One requirement is that the person not have a history of violence.
In an email to the AP, Amnesty noted the difficulty of accessing independent information in a tightly guarded society such as Cuba. It acknowledged talking to government opponents and other rights groups, but said it conducted its own investigation into the facts of Martinez’s case.
He is one of two Cubans who Amnesty considers to be prisoners of conscience, along with Marcos Maiquel Lima Cruz, behind bars since December 2010.
Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi