A report by Silvia Higuera for Journalism in the Americas.
Cuba is the only country in Latin America included in the list of 10 nations with the highest levels of censorship in the world, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
According to the CPJ report, published on Sept. 10, the nations included in the list, “flout the international standard by banning or severely restricting independent media and intimidating journalists into silence with imprisonment, digital and physical surveillance, and other forms of harassment. Self-censorship is pervasive.”
Regarding Cuba, the organization points out that it is still the country with the greatest restrictions to practicing journalism in the Western hemisphere despite that fact that in recent years there have been some improvements in the expansion of internet and Wi-Fi access.
Although Cuba introduced internet for the home in 2017 and mobile data in 2018, its prices are “prohibitively expensive” for any citizen, the report said. According to CPJ data, 4 gigabytes of data can cost up to US $30, which was equivalent to the average monthly state salary in 2017.
In addition to the high price, the state internet service provider, ETECSA, has orders to block sites with content critical of the government as well as prohibit access to them, according to a report from the Open Observatory of Network Interference cited by CPJ. For this reason, most independent journalists have their sites hosted abroad, the report added.
Additionally, the “print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state,” the report said.
Journalists considered critical by the government and who are on the island are subject to harassment, physical and digital surveillance, short-term detentions, housing searches and seizures of equipment, CPJ added.
The case of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones was mentioned in the report. Quiñones, who writes for Cubanet, was detained in front of the Guantanamo Municipal Court where he had come to cover a trial, and was allegedly beaten by the political police in April 2019. Although he was released, an investigation remained open against him for this incident, and last August he was sentenced to one year in prison for crimes of resistance and disobedience.
Recently, it was revealed that his prison time would begin before Sept.12, Cubanet reported. Quiñones had previously been detained several times, the site added.
The CPJ report notes that one of the most sensitive topics to cover in the country concerns natural disasters. The organization recorded the detention of journalists who covered the impact of hurricanes in October 2016and September 2017.
In the case of foreign journalists, the government grants visas “selectively,” according to a Freedom House report cited by CPJ.
The list of countries with the highest levels of censorship is made by CPJ to address direct or indirect government censorship. The index is made based on the organization’s investigations in those countries where the government “tightly controls the media.”
Some of the parameters evaluated by CPJ include criminal provisions on defamation, blocking of websites, surveillance of journalists by the authorities, prohibition of foreign correspondents, restrictions on electronic files, among others.