United Nations Acknowledges Freedom of Speech Crisis in Cuba / Cubalex

A group of Cuban independent journalists and activists all stopped at the airport on the same day in October of this year, and prevented from leaving the country. (Inalkis Rodríguez / La Hora de Cuba)

Cubalex, 10 November 2019 — Cuba and Venezuela  were flagged up by the United Nations as the countries in the region with the worst indicators in regard to promotion and protection of freedom of speech.

For years, both countries have been evidencing a crisis in freedom of speech, according to the UN special rapporteur.

The suppression of independent communicators and political activists has increased in the last year on the island. There have been 54 aggressions against unofficial reporters, 11 of which were women, as reported to th Association for Press Freedom (APLP) as of June 2019.

As a part of these aggressions, the reporters are intimidated, have their homes observed, their houses broken into, they are confronted in the street, and have their means of work confiscated. They are also arbitrarily detained by state security, normally for hours or days on end.  In late March, the journalist Roberto Quinones was detained, and they took action against him, resulting in his being locked up for a year.

This case was denounced by independent Cuban organisations and media. The  conviction of this Cuban journalist has been included in OneFreePress’s list of the ten most serious cases of injustice against journalists, and Amnesty International named him as “prisoner of conscience.”

On top of all these measures, there is refusal of permission to leave the country for random periods. This year, nearly 200 Cuban citizens have complained of their “regulated” status.

Another coercive measure against free speech is contained in Cuba’s own legal code. Law 88, better known as the “gagging law” threatens decades of imprisonment for those who contravene it.

Law 88 decrees the suppression of private reporting if it tries “to subvert the internal order of the state and destroy its political, economic and social system.” The last time this repressive measure was applied was during the Black Spring in 2003. At that time 75 people were locked up, and nearly a third were reporters.

Last May, the president of the Supreme Popular Tribunal, Ruben Remigio Ferro, reported on his Twitter account that the gagging law remains in force and could be applied again in the country.

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH