José Ramírez Pantoja’s only crime is his deep commitment with true quality journalism, for which he was persecuted in Cuba. On May 8th 2019, this Cuban journalist requested political asylum to the United States of America, but the migratory crisis unwrapped far and wide across the country has resulted in him having to remain in isolation cells in different detention centers, and, finally, confined to the ICE Adelanto Processing Center, in California, on June 3rd. He has begun his asylum request process, hoping it will be granted to him soon, as he fears for his life if he is forced to return to Cuba, considered the worst media freedom violator in the Americas.
This, 42-year-old, Cuban reporter’s odyssey to remain safe and alive began back in 2016, when he was persecuted for reporting on the statements made by the deputy director of Diario Granma, an officialist newspaper, about a possible uprising similar to the ‘Maleconazo’, (a protest against government policies in Cuba back in 1994), on his personal blog: ‘Verdad de Cuba’. He was threatened through different channels and was finally fired from his job as a reporter in Radio Holguín, additionally the Ethic Journalism Committee sanctioned him with a five year ban for working on any media outlet. Though he appealed to every instance available, his pleas where denied and anyone willing to help him was threatened. Since then, the harassment he has been subject to didn’t stop, even when he wrote using a pseudonym.
In January 2019, he left Cuba thanks to a Mexican state scholarship he was awarded so he could complete his doctorate degree in History, at the Autonomous University of Baja California (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California), in Tijuana. In March, he decided to cross the border to San Ysidro, California, into the United States and was detained for 12 days by immigration officials, who questioned him about his request.
José’s process and struggle is one that no individual should have to face for expressing themselves and in his particular case, for doing his job. His rights are being jeopardized and disregarded. For that reason he reached out to FUNDAMEDIOS. The organization received immediate support from Eduardo Becket, attorney and freedom of expression advocate based in Texas, who has lent José his advise long distance. Cuban journalists in the USA have also supported him through the process. But José needs a legal local support for the upcoming audiences. Unfortunately, no humanitarian organization in Los Angeles can commit to assist him for now. They are, understandably, processing cases focused on migrant families and children at risk of being deported or separated.
On July 1st, José attended an audience on his case, where the asylum appeal register was made available to him so he could petition the court. The audience for him to present all the documentation that backs his request will he held on July 16th. To have any chance of success on this date he urgently needs an attorney that represents him and accompanies him during the process.
In the midst of all this, José’s spirit isn’t undermined, he remains hopeful and willing to do everything in his power to be a free man, even by bettering his English skills, for which he has also requested a Spanish-English dictionary or a middle level course that would help him prove his case.
As an organization profoundly committed to defending Freedom of Expression and Human Rights, FUNDAMEDIOS, will continue to support José Ramírez Pantoja and to appeal to any partner or kindred organization to support him on his legal process so he can walk a free man and continue his life in a safe country.