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February 05, 2004

The Cuba Report Amendment: The Director's Cut

It didn't take long for the proposed amendment to IRC's report on Cuba to morph into something it was not. I am going to be charitable and chalk it up to post-conference amnesia (what did we vote on? who did I lunch with?), but today, one of the members of the Cuba report task force warned the readers of ALA's member-forum, "please do not be misled by quotes taken out of context"--and then proceeded to grossly misrepresent the amendment, suggesting it was a "demand" to release a "specific number" of prisoners.

Look, if you're going to disagree with me, please do so on the merits of the amendment, not on hearsay. We're information professionals, and we don't get our facts via the DRE method. As a lawyer once commented, "we give good citation."

So here again is the failed amendment to the IRC Cuba report, in gloriously plain text, suitable for framing (or forwarding), with a couple of explanations built-in for those of you who aren't parliamentary-procedure junkies.


Proposed Amendment to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba


Proposed: the following modification to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba:

Changing this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and urges the Cuban government ...

To this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and calls for their immediate release. ALA urges the Cuban government ...


[Note: the above is the actual action language. The rationale below was provided to support the proposed language, but would not have appeared anywhere in the report. Amendments do NOT have to be submitted in writing; I did so at the encouragement of the parliamentarian, and I believe it helped facilitate debate and closure on this issue.]


This change would add action language related to the arrest and lengthy prison terms of the dozens of journalists, writers, and others arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown. These journalists, writers, and other activists were arrested for a variety of actions that we have repeatedly affirmed in numerous ALA policies: writing and speaking about free speech and civil liberties, and owning private book collections (often referred to as "independent libraries"). Additionally, personal book collections were confiscated and in many cases destroyed.

In calling for the release of the people arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown, we join Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, President Jimmy Carter, journalist Nat Hentoff (recipient of the 1983 ALA Immroth award), and other organizations and individuals who champion free speech everywhere. This action language is consistent with ALA policies, including ALA Policy 58.8, which affirms our support for Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression") and ALA Policy 58.1(2) (International Relations, especially 58.1(2), a policy objective to "support human rights and intellectual freedom worldwide."

ALA's commitment to free speech everywhere is so strong that in the last fifteen years ALA has passed resolutions on behalf of human rights and intellectual freedom in these countries: Romania (1990), Afghanistan (1991), Thailand (1995), Zimbabwe (1996), Nigeria (1996), Yugoslavia (1999), Cuba (2001), Palestine (2002), and Iraq (2003). These resolutions were not limited to calling for free speech for formally accredited librarians or for access to "official" libraries, and some of the individuals we cited in these resolutions were labeled dissidents in their own countries.

Several of the Cuban dissidents arrested in 2003 received prison sentences of over 20 years. The dissidents include several journalists for the organization Reporters Without Borders, an international journalists'
organization dedicated to free press everywhere, and Journalist Victor Arroyo, whose sentencing documents note that his "antirevolutionary"
activities earned him an award from Human Rights Watch.

It is worth asking what kind of "criminal" behavior prompted the mass roundup of dozens of Cubans in March of 2003. The arrests appear to be related to a crackdown following the Varela Project, a pro-democracy petition that despite the risk it posed to those who signed it, received tens of thousands of signatures after it was mentioned in a speech by President Jimmy Carter in his visit to Cuba in 2002. The actual "charges"
against the dissidents include such charges as accepting radios, battery chargers and cash donations; owning and sharing books critical of Cuban government; and for the journalists, independently reporting news, which is illegal in Cuba.

For More Information

Reporters Without Borders: http://www.rsf.org/

Human Rights Watch: Americas: Cuba: http://hrw.org/doc/?t=americas&c=cuba

Amnesty International 2003 Report on Cuba (pending, online)

Posted by kgs at February 5, 2004 01:50 PM

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You're an american hero in my book. Peace. --scott

Posted by: J.Scott Barnard at February 10, 2004 07:25 AM

i second mr barnard's comment

Posted by: akaky at February 10, 2004 09:06 AM