In March of this year Cuban dictator Fidel Castro imprisoned 75 human rights activists with sentences ranging from six to twenty-seven years, an action somberly understood by most Czechs. Since this time various initiatives have been launched in the Czech Republic to support the dissidents and their families; including a letter by former dissident later president Vaclav Havel and two other leaders of eastern bloc countries, calling for the peaceful overthrow of the regime. As part of this continuing effort a Czech based NGO called the People in Need Foundation, recognizes the importance of supporting media and independent journalism in Cuba.
The People in Need Foundation has long been involved in supporting the Cuban pro-democracy movement and independent journalists in Cuba. Co-founded by Czech Television, the People in Need Foundation asked Pablo Rodriguez to build a production company in the country to enable dissidents to produce material about their efforts for distribution around the island and if possible abroad. He agreed to the undertaking and directed a documentary filmed in Cuba last June. Pablo did so at great personal risk.
"We had the perfect contacts such as Osvaldo Paya the leader of the dissidents. We took a trip around the island and visited a lot of families and visited some of the dissidents who are in prison. Then afterwards we managed to take all of the information out of Cuba, which was the most crucial task. Otherwise if they caught you with the information inside of Cuba not only would the documentary not have been made but I would now be in jail for twenty years in Cuba."
The film is entitled the Cuban Spring - in correlation to the Prague Spring of 1968. The film has already been shown in various festivals and seminars the film and is produced in Czech, Spanish, Polish, English - a German and French version are in the works. It is scheduled to be presented in Prague in April 2004 at the 'One World' international human rights film festival. The festival was established by the People in need Foundation in 1999 and was the first of its kind in Central Europe. Pablo Rodriguez the director of the Cuban Spring.
"I think that the People in Need Foundation have done an excellent job in Cuba. The Czech president himself contacted Osvaldo Paya and invited him to Prague which was the only time he was ever allowed to leave Cuba. They invited him again for another occasion but the Cuban government didn't give him the authorization to leave the country. They sent human rights people to Cuba to try to visit the families of the dissidents to give them help, support, money and also took some news out of the island as well as bring news into the island. As you may know the Yellow Press is completely controlled by the government and therefore freedom of the press in Cuba is totally impossible."
If you are seeking more information regarding the 'One World' Film Festival, their website is www.oneworld.cz
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