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Cuba

Key Developments

» Dissidents allowed to travel abroad for first time in decades.

» Journalist released after months in prison; short-term detentions continue.

To complement gradual economic and political reforms, Cuba made small, but mostly symbolic openings in the press freedom landscape in 2013, and impact for the independent media was minimal. One exception was legislation easing exit visa regulations that was passed in 2012 but implemented in 2013. The law allowed critical bloggers and political dissidents to travel internationally for the first time in decades. While abroad, prominent critical blogger Yoani Sánchez announced plans to launch a broad-based news publication upon her return to Cuba. In January, international analysts detected activity on the long-awaited, Venezuelan-financed, fiber-optic cable project, but high-speed Internet was still not available to the average Cuban. Later in the year, the government announced the opening of 100 public Internet centers, but content was filtered and the hourly rate prohibitively expensive for most citizens. A journalist was freed after spending seven months in prison in relation to his reporting. Though no journalists were imprisoned as of December 1, the government continued its practice of short-term detentions. Raúl Castro said he would step down as president in 2018, setting a date for the beginning of a post-Castro Cuba.



  • 19

    Forced into exile
  • 14

    Recommendations rejected
  • 7

    Months in jail
  • 2

    Trips abroad for blogger
 

At least 19 journalists have been forced to flee Cuba since 2008, according to CPJ research. Life in exile has been marked by challenges for the journalists. Several of the journalists imprisoned during the 2003 crackdown known as the Black Spring were sent to Spain as part of their release negotiations.

Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 72, one of the Black Spring detainees, died of natural causes in exile in Spain.

Top countries from where journalists have fled, 2008-13:
exiled
 

Cuba accepted most of the 292 recommendations it received from United Nations member states at the country's Universal Periodic Review, but rejected at least 14 recommendations related to press freedom, freedom of expression, or access to the Internet.


UPR recommendations:

292

Total recommendations made by U.N. member states.

20

Recommendations rejected by the Cuban government.

14

Rejected recommendations were related to press freedom, freedom of expression, or access to the Internet.

 

Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press, was released from prison on April 10 after being held for almost seven months in connection with his coverage of a shipment of medicine and equipment that had been damaged.

CPJ documented no journalists in prison in Cuba in late 2013.

Imprisoned in Cuba over time:
 

After the 2012 elimination of exit visa regulations, critical blogger Yoani Sánchez was allowed to leave the country twice in 2013 after having been denied permission at least 20 times in the past decade. Sanchez's trip was one of a number of decisions made by the Cuban government that suggested the possibility of a further opening, but no major steps to promote press freedom were in evidence in late year.


A possible opening?

January 2013:

Latin American news channel Telesur starts broadcasting live in Cuba. The channel, mostly financed by Venezuela, is not critical of the Cuban government, but offers a view of the wider world.

March 2013:

Communist Party mouthpiece Granma publishes a highly unusual interview with a U.S. diplomat about migration issues.

June 2013:

The government opens 118 public Internet centers to make the Web more available to citizens. But some pages are blocked, and the hourly rate to use the centers is prohibitively expensive for the average Cuban.

September 2013:

A state media journalist gives an unprecedented interview to U.S. government-supported, anti-Castro radio station Radio Martí and acknowledges that the Cuban official press needs to evolve.

September 2013:

A group of bloggers announces a new online magazine called The Cuban Blogosphere, which will compile various blog posts and images and can be downloaded and circulated among people without Internet access.

October 2013:

Authorities announce the appointment of new editors to the country's two most important newspapers, calling the move part of a "renewal" of Cuban journalism.



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