New York, September 28–Cuban journalists are finding more space to be critical but restrictive laws, the fear of persecution, and limited and expensive access to the internet is slowing the country’s press freedom progress, CPJ found in a report released today. The report finds that although President Raúl Castro’s call for reforms five years ago has energized the press scene, many bloggers remain wary of publishing content that is too critical.
Based on interviews with journalists and bloggers, the report, “Connecting Cuba: More space for criticism but restrictions slow press freedom progress,” examines how the media landscape has changed since Castro announced that Cubans should not be afraid to express differences of opinion. News websites and independent outlets are starting up, and journalists are exploring opportunities that were previously off limits. However, the legal framework has not changed and the government has significant control over how information is shared. These restrictive media laws and a fear of persecution inhibit journalists from being overly critical of the state.
The report also provides a comprehensive overview of internet access in the country. Due to government restrictions, Cuba remains one of the most disconnected countries in the Western hemisphere. Only a fraction of its 11 million citizens can regularly access the internet, and connections are slow and costly. This limited access makes it hard for online journalists to reach their audience, forcing many to rely on innovative ways to distribute content offline.
“The change in Cuba’s outlook toward a more free press is a welcome development,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s program director and senior Americas program coordinator. “The government needs to ground these changes in the country’s constitution and other legal frameworks so that journalists and bloggers can report freely and without fear of persecution.”
The report was produced by CPJ’s Americas program and includes a foreword by Ernesto Londoño, a member of The New York Times editorial board who has written extensively about Cuba. The report includes recommendations to the Cuban government and to the Organization of American States, including calls for the government to implement constitutional and legal reforms and to amend a restrictive legal framework that bans privately owned media.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
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The report is available in English and Spanish.