Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
On the anniversary of the Republic of Cuba’s creation on 20 May 1902, Reporters Without Borders calls for continued diplomatic efforts that could help improve access to news and information on the island. When Raúl Castro was installed as president on 24 February 2008, he said he wanted to do away with “the excess of prohibitions and regulations” but Cubans are still denied the Internet access enjoyed by foreign visitors and 24 journalists are still in prison.
“Raúl Castro’s first actions as president raised hopes of more freedom, but the reforms have fallen far short of initial expectations and the population continues to be the victim of oppression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for the repeal of regulations that discriminate against Cubans and the continuation of diplomatic efforts likely to change the situation.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We would also like to see the lifting of the US embargo that has been in force since 1962. Condemned by the entire international community, this embargo just bolsters the regime while penalising the population.”
When Raúl Castro took over from his brother Fidel, he lifted a ban on Cubans entering tourist hotels, which are one of the few places where the Internet can be accessed. Nonetheless, it is often still impossible for Cubans to get online (see video: http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/?p=929). Many hotels ask would-be Internet users to prove that they live abroad.
Restrictions on the Internet
average wage: 20 dollars a month
average price of a computer: 800 dollars
average Internet connection charge: 6 dollars an hour
Raúl Castro also announced on 3 May 2008 that it would no longer be illegal to possess a personal computer but they are so expensive that most would-be bloggers cannot afford them. Computers are nonetheless being used to circulate personal accounts and videos on the island, but a Cuban can get 20 years in prison under article 91 of the criminal code for posting a “counter-revolutionary” article online and five years for connecting “illegally” to the Internet.
Cuba is the world’s second biggest prison for journalists, after China. Nineteen of the journalists currently in prison were arrested in 2003 and are serving sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years that they received on the spurious charge of being “mercenaries in the pay of the United States.” They include Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, the editor of the magazine De Cuba, who is being held in Havana’s Combinado del Este prison.
Four other journalists have received sentences ranging from three to four years in prison since the “transition” from Fidel to Raúl Castro began in July 2006. The latest to be jailed was Alberto Du Bouchet of the Habana Press news agency, who was sentenced to three years in prison on 12 May on a charge of disrespect for authority.
"Freedom of speech in accordance with the socialist society’s objectives is recognised for citizens. The material conditions for the existence of this freedom are guaranteed by the fact that the press, radio, television, cinema and other mass media belong to the state or to society, and under no circumstances are owned privately. This ensures that they exclusively serve the working people and the interests of society."