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    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
    released today.

    "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
    fundamental freedoms.

    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
    government.

    "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
    dangerous."

    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
    United States.

    "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
    perpetrate them."

    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
    strimel@aiusa.org or 212-633-4150

    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20100630001&lang=e&rss=recentnews

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