Cuban Government Continues to Stifle Dissent, Despite Assertions that Freedom of Expression is Respected, Says New Amnesty International Report
Cuban Government Continues to Stifle Dissent, Despite Assertions that
Freedom of Expression is Respected, Says New Amnesty International Report
June 30, 2010
Cuba's government continues to stifle dissent through arbitrary arrests,
surveillance, intimidation and harassment of journalists, dissidents and
activists, despite recent assertions that freedom of expression is
respected inside Cuba, Amnesty International said in a new report
"Restrictions on freedom of expression in Cuba are systematic and
entrenched," said the 35-page report, Restrictions on Freedom of
Expression in Cuba, which highlights cases of journalists, writers,
government critics and others who have been harshly dealt with by a
government intent on silencing their views.
The report said authorities have also put in place filters restricting
access to blogs that openly criticize the government and restrictions on
Amnesty International said provisions in the Cuban legal system and
government practices continue to restrict information provided to the
media and are used to detain and prosecute hundreds of critics of the
"The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed
criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak
out against the government. There is an urgent need for reform to make
all human rights a reality for all Cubans," said Kerrie Howard, deputy
director of Amnesty International's Americas program.
Yosvani Anzardo Hernández, the director of the Candonga online
newspaper, is one of many Cuban independent journalists who have been
arbitrarily arrested, interrogated and intimidated by the authorities.
In September 2009 he was arbitrarily detained for 14 days, before being
released without charge. At the time, police also confiscated his
computer, which hosted the website, and disconnected his telephone line.
Anzardo said: "We tried very hard to give information about what was
happening in the country. They [the authorities] considered this to be
The Cuban state has a virtual monopoly on media while demanding that all
journalists join the national journalists' association, which is in turn
controlled by the Communist Party.
While Cuba's report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009 asserted
"wide-ranging debate" within the country, opinions critical of
government in reality are not permitted outside state-controlled arenas.
The Cuban Constitution states that none of the freedoms recognized for
citizens can be exercised "contrary to the existence and objectives of
the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to
build socialism and communism."
The penal code specifies a range of vague criminal charges that can also
be used to stifle dissent, such as "social dangerousness," "enemy
propaganda," "contempt of authority," "resistance," "defamation of
national institutions," and "clandestine printing."
Provisions of Law 88 on the Protection of National Independence and the
Economy of Cuba have also been used to repress criticism and punish
dissidents who work with foreign media.
With a judiciary that is neither independent, nor impartial, critics of
the government find that an unlimited range of acts can be interpreted
as criminal and end up facing trials that are often summary and unfair.
Cuban authorities deny the existence of political prisoners in the
country but Amnesty International knows of at least 53 prisoners of
conscience who remain in prison for peacefully exercising their right to
freedom of expression, association and assembly.
They include independent journalist Pablo Pacheco Avila, one of 75
dissidents arrested in the 'Black Spring' crackdown in 2003, who was
sentenced to a 20-year jail term for writing articles for foreign and
online newspapers, being interviewed by foreign radio stations, and
publishing information via the internet.
Despite some prisoners of conscience being released on health grounds,
including Ariel Sigler Amaya this month, most, including Pablo Pacheco
Avila, are still imprisoned.
The Cuban government has sought to justify its failure to protect human
rights by pointing to the negative effects of the embargo imposed by the
"It is clear that the U.S. embargo has had a negative impact on the
country but it is frankly a lame excuse for violating the rights of the
Cuban people," said Kerrie Howard. "The government needs to find
solutions to end human right violations, instead of excuses to
Amnesty International calls on the Cuban government to revoke or amend
legal provisions that unlawfully limit freedom of expression, end
harassment of dissidents, release all prisoners of conscience, and allow
free exchange of information through the internet and other media.
"The release of all prisoners of conscience and the end of harassment of
dissidents are measures that the Cuban government must take immediately
and unconditionally," said Howard. "Cuba must also dismantle the
repressive machinery built up over decades and implement the reforms
needed to make human rights a reality for all Cubans."
To obtain acopy of the report, Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in
Cuba, please contact Suzanne Trimel, Director of Media Relations, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-633-4150