169 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 110,860 sq. km
Head of state: Raul Castro since February 2008
Cuba is the sole country on the American continent not to tolerate an independent press. The country is still ranked as the world’s second biggest prison for journalists with 24 of them in jail. There have been a few cautious changes since Raul Castro took power.
Cuba is the only country on the American continent that does not tolerate an independent press outside the tight control of the state. The official media (one television station, one radio, two daily newspapers - Granma and Juventud Rebelde - and their local offices) have the job of relaying official propaganda. Only a few Catholic magazines are permitted. Dissident journalists therefore all work secretly and are forced to publish with external help, in particular through websites run by the Cuban diaspora in Miami, what they cannot publish to their fellow citizens on the island. Cuba remains, after China, the world’s second biggest prison for journalists, since the “black spring” of March 2003. Nineteen of the 27 journalists arrested at the time remain behind bars, including the Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent, Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso. Another journalist was sentenced in 2005 to seven years in prison while four others were handed down sentences of three to four years after the interim presidency Raul Castro from 31 July 2006, before he officially succeeded his brother, on 24 February 2008. Harassment of dissidents continues, even if the new government has given a few cautious signs of openness. Four days after the inauguration of Raul Castro on 27 February 2008, Cuba signed - without ratifying them - two UN human rights pacts (one on financial, social and cultural rights and the other on civil and political rights). Cubans on 24 February had a ban lifted on using major hotels with better Internet connections and on buying individual computer equipment. Mobile phones were also legalised. Four dissidents arrested during “black spring”, including journalist Alejandro Gonzalez Raga, were released on 15 February 2008, after mediation by the Spanish government which also gave them the right to relocate to the country. Use of the Internet remains under close control, even if connection problems are also due to the restrictions imposed under the US embargo that has been in force since 1962.