Cuba Gets Low Marks on Press Freedom from Committee to Protect Journalists

On April 27, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual report on the status of press freedom in the world. It ranked Cuba 10th on its list of the 10 Most Censored Countries. Here is what it said about Cuba.[1]

“How censorship works: Despite significant improvements in the past few years-such as the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades-Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.” Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. These critical blogs and online news platforms are largely inaccessible to the average Cuban, who still has not benefited from a high-speed Internet connection financed by Venezuela. Most Cubans do not have Internet at home. The government continues to target critical journalists through harassment, surveillance, and short-term detentions. Juliet Michelena Díaz, a contributor to a network of local citizen journalists, was imprisoned for seven months on anti-state charges after photographing an incident between residents and police in Havana. She was later declared innocent and freed. Visas for international journalists are granted selectively by officials.”

“Lowlight: Though the government has for the most part done away with long-term detentions of journalists, author-turned-critical blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been imprisoned since February 2013 on allegations of domestic violence. The writer and other local independent journalists maintain that he was targeted in retaliation for writing critically about the government on his blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted.)”

CPJ “is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” The organization “is made up of about 40 experts around the world, with headquarters in New York City. When press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and take action on behalf of those targeted. CPJ reports on violations in repressive countries, conflict zones, and established democracies alike. A board of prominent journalists from around the world helps guide CPJ’s activities.”[2]

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[1] Gladstone, Press Freedom Weakened Around the World in 2015, Report Says, N.Y. Times (April 27, 2016); Comm. to Protect Journalists, 10 Most Censored Countries (April 2016) The CPJ website also contains its reports on specific incidents in Cuba and other countries.

[2] Comm. to Protect Journalists, About CPJ.

Committee To Protect Journalists Criticizes Cuba’s Censorship of the Press

On April 21st the Committee To Protect Journalists ranked Cuba as having the 10th most censored press in the world. [1] The following is its statement about Cuba:

  • “Despite significant improvements in the past few years-such as the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades-Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.” Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. These critical blogs and online news platforms are largely inaccessible to the average Cuban, who still has not benefited from a high-speed Internet connection financed by Venezuela. Most Cubans do not have Internet at home. The government continues to target critical journalists through harassment, surveillance, and short-term detentions. Juliet Michelena Díaz, a contributor to a network of local citizen journalists, was imprisoned for seven months on anti-state charges after photographing an incident between residents and police in Havana. She was later declared innocent and freed. Visas for international journalists are granted selectively by officials.”
  • “Though the government has for the most part done away with long-term detentions of journalists, author-turned-critical blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been imprisoned since February 2013 on allegations of domestic violence. The writer and other local independent journalists maintain that he was targeted in retaliation for writing critically about the government on his blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted).”

The Committee’s List is based upon its “research, as well as the expertise of the organization’s staff, . . . [with respect to] the absence of privately owned or independent media, blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination, license requirements to conduct journalism, restrictions on journalists’ movements, monitoring of journalists by authorities, jamming of foreign broadcasts, and blocking of foreign correspondents.”

These issues about freedom of the press in Cuba should be part of the U.S.-Cuba discussions about Cuban human rights that were covered in an earlier post about the U.S. Department of State’s report about Cuba’s human rights record for 2013 and that will be covered in the soon-to-be-released Department’s report for 2014.[2]

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[1] This List is part of CPJ’s Annual report, “Attacks on the Press,” to be released on April 27th. This post is based upon Comm. To Protect Journalists, 10 Most Censored Countries (April 21, 2015); Assoc. Press, Eritrea, North Korea Called World’s Most Censored States, N.Y. Times (April 21, 2015); Gladstone, Eritrea and North Korea Are World’s Most Censored Countries, Advocacy Group Says, N.Y. Times (April 21, 2015).

[2] Other posts discussed the Cuban Foreign Minister’s recent speech about its human rights, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, the U.S. and Cuba’s having the same concept of human rights and the initial U.S.-Cuba discussions about U.S. and Cuban human rights.