Six facts about censorship in Cuba
By Josefina Salomon, 11 March 2016, 00:00 UTC
To mark the World Day against Cyber Censorship on 12 March, here are six
things you should know about free speech, the internet and online
censorship in Cuba.
The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba in
December 2014 brought renewed hope for an end to the US economic
embargo, which has had a dire impact on the human rights of ordinary
Cubans. But while tourists flock to the island to experience its
romantic, old-world charm before it “changes”, less romantic is its
history of restricting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,
still shown in the authorities’ determination to stifle dissent.
1. Freedom of expression can land you in jail in Cuba.
Graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto”, found
this out when he was locked up for most of 2015 for painting the names
of Raúl and Fidel – the names of the Castro brothers who have been in
power since 1959 – on the backs of two live pigs. He had planned to
release the animals as part of an artistic performance but, before he
could, he was accused of desacato (contempt) and thrown in prison for 10
months. He was never formally charged or brought before a judge.
2. The state has a virtual monopoly on print and broadcast media.
The Cuban Constitution recognizes freedom of the press but expressly
prohibits private ownership of the mass media. While independent
journalists and bloggers have emerged in recent years, the authorities
continue to prevent journalists critical of the government from doing
their jobs. On International Human Rights Day 2015, journalists at
14ymedio – established by prominent cyber activist Yoani Sanchez – were
prevented from reporting on a protest coordinated by human rights groups
The Ladies in White and TodosMarchamos. According to one journalist,
state security agents blocked the door to the building they worked in
and told him: “Today you are not going out.”
“Today only 25 per cent of Cubans use the internet, while only five per
cent of homes are connected.”
3. Cuba is one of the least connected countries in the Americas.
Until 2008, the government banned ownership of computer and DVD
equipment in Cuba. Today only 25 per cent of Cubans use the internet,
while only five per cent of homes are connected. Internet access is
still prohibitively expensive for most, and far from accessible to all.
Cuba has said it will double access in the next five years, with public
Wi-Fi hot spots starting to open since March 2015, but it remains the
most disconnected country in the Americas.
4. Internet access in Cuba is censored.
With access to internet so limited, online censorship is not that
sophisticated in Cuba. Authorities frequently filter and intermittently
block websites that are critical of the state. Limiting access to
information in this way is a clear breach of the right to freedom of
expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information.
5. Communicating with Cuban human rights activists from overseas is
Amnesty International, along with many other independent international
human rights monitors, including UN Special Rapporteurs, are not allowed
to access Cuba. The landline, mobile and internet connections of
government critics, human rights activists and journalists are often
monitored or disabled. In the lead-up to Pope Benedict’s three-day visit
to Cuba in September 2012, a communications blockade prevented Amnesty
International and other international organizations from gathering
information on a wave of detentions that were taking place.
Communicating with Cuban human rights activists remains challenging,
particularly at times when the authorities are arresting people based on
their political opinion.
6. Cubans are savvy about how to circumvent censorship and government
restrictions to internet access.
From underground Wi-Fi, to creating apps, to harnessing the power of
USBs, Cubans are finding ways to share information and avoid cyber
censorship. World Day against Cyber Censorship is a time to show
solidarity with Cuban dissidents, activists, journalists andtheir struggle.
Source: Censorship in Cuba | Amnesty International –
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