Cuba Derechos Humanos

Journalism watchdog calls for Cuba blogger freedom

Posted on Thursday, 09.10.09
Journalism watchdog calls for Cuba blogger freedom
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA — A U.S.-based journalist watchdog group called Thursday for an
end to what it described as "systemic harassment" of bloggers and
independent journalists in Cuba, and urged the international community
to step up its lobbying on the bloggers' behalf.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said a surprisingly vibrant
blogging community has sprung up on the communist-run island, despite
government intimidation, official barriers and the high cost of going
online. Cuba has the lowest rate of Internet use in the Americas.

"The bloggers, mainly young adults from a variety of professions, have
opened a new space for free expression in Cuba, while offering a fresh
glimmer of hope for the rebirth of independent ideas in Cuba's closed
system," the group said in a report.

The New York-based CPJ also called on Cuba to unconditionally free
imprisoned independent journalists and to honor international
commitments that the country has signed that should in theory allow all
journalists to report freely without fear of reprisal.

The Cuban government had no immediate reaction to the report, but it
routinely dismisses international watchdog groups including the CPJ as
agents of the U.S. government.

A few Cuban bloggers have gained fame in recent years for irreverent
reports that have openly criticized the government and reported on hot
button issues like food shortages, low wages, crumbling housing and
inept bureaucracy.

According to the report, 22 online journalists are currently imprisoned
in Cuba. Many others are tolerated by the government, though their Web
sites are sometimes hacked and several have been called in for
questioning by the authorities. Even those allowed to post have their
pages routinely blocked in Cuba.

The CPJ said it had identified 25 journalistic blogs produced by Cuban
writers, and 75 others that are focused on personal and family interests.

Many of the blogs steer clear of openly criticizing the Cuban
government, but even highlighting some of the hardships on the island
can be dangerous. A Cuban man whose rant about hunger became a hit on
YouTube earlier this year was sentenced to two years in prison for
"dangerousness." He was appealing the case Thursday.

The report said government response to the emergence of blogs – most of
which have sprung up since last year – has been muted compared to a
fierce crackdown on independent journalists and political activists in
2003, when the government arrested 75 dissidents and sentenced them to
long prison terms for allegedly conspiring with the U.S. to topple the

It said the relatively slow response could be due to the fact that most
Cuban leaders – including Raul and Fidel Castro – are too old to fully
grasp the significance of the Internet and the power of bloggers. The
government might also not see the blogs as a threat since most of the
readers are overseas. Very few Cubans have consistent access to the
Internet, and those that do use their limited time online to send e-mails.

The report warned, however, that the relative tolerance might be

"That there hasn't been a large-scale crackdown on bloggers, analysts
say, does not preclude the possibility of a future assault by Cuban
authorities," it said.

Journalism watchdog calls for Cuba blogger freedom – World AP – (10 September 2009)

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