Friday, November 19, 2010

Internet Censorship Around the World Part 3 Cuba...

Today we report on more countries where internet censorship is pervasive, Cuba.


Cuba has less than 2 per cent of the population online.  It has the lowest ratio of computers per inhabitant in Latin America., having the lowest Internet access ratio of all the Western hemisphere.**  Although officially, Cuba cites the American embargo as the cause for this low rate, there is evidence that it controls all the information through government controlled "access points."*** Another excuse the Cuban government uses are, its inability to use the underwater fibre optic cable to connect outside Cuba, having only the option of satellite links.

Yet the truth about Cuba is that it bans private Internet connections.  To use email, Cubans have to use public access points (i.e., Internet cafes, universities, "youth computing centers").  Any "subversive" words that are used in a search will trigger the installed police software.  Be prepared for a 20 year sentence if you write any "counter-revolutionary" articles.  Anyone connecting to the Internet in an "illegal" manner can get 5 years imprisonment.**  As an example of these repressive policies, Claire Voeux and Julien Pain two French reporters, visited Cuba in 2006 and reported the rates for Internet usage to be $3 an hour, after, you have given the receptionist your name and passport number.  Average wait for a Cuban national wishing to use the "Correos de Cuba" or Internet cafes are 45 minutes in line.  For them, the connection costs $4.50 an hour which is about half of their monthly wage.  They can use the "national" Internet for $1.50 an hour, but, it only gives them email.  The connection is so slow that it might take you an hour to send three emails.  The software installed in the computers will flash a message such as, "This program will close down in a few seconds for state security reasons."***  The reporters found innovative ways to communicate to try to circumvent the surveillance software:

Thereafter, I took every kind of possible and imaginable precaution. I even used an e-mail address created by Reporters Without Borders. I would writ⁄e systematically-encoded articles that I would leave in its “Draft” folder without sending them. Then someone in France would go to the same e-mail address, remove my stories from the “Draft” folder, and send them to the newspapers they were meant for.
 Examples or Cuban Repression
Guillermo Fariñas, was imprisoned by the Cuban government for reporting corrupt activities of the hospital board director, while he was General Secretary of the Healthcare Union Workers, in 1995.  His family was loyal members of the Cuban Revolution, with Fariñas having fought in Angola in 1981, and his father having fought in the Congo with Che Guevara in the 1960s.**  In October 20, 2010, Fariñas was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.  This is the third time this award has gone to Cuban dissidents.  He went on a hunger strike which ended this last July, due to the hope, that the Cuban Government would release him and other dissidents in prison.

Yoani Sanchez

Yoani is a blogger residing in Cuba.  She founded a magazine entitled, Contodos, which has served a forum of Cuban free expression.  After having moved to Switzerland in 2002, she longed to return to Cuba, and, despite persecution, she has a blog named Generacion Y, which, she publishes by emailing blog entries to friends outside the country who then posts them online.  She was named one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, by Time Magazine.  In 2009, she was forcibly accosted and beaten by unidentified men who referred to her as a "counter-revolutionary."  Since her website, has been blocked in Cuba, she and others, have referred to themselves as, "blind bloggers."  The site gets 14,000,000 hits a month.
Arrested at age 26, during the famous "black spring" crackdown of March-April of 2003, Garcia, was released in November 2010, due to a promise the Cuban government made to the Catholic Church and the Spanish government.  He and his brother were imprisoned for their involvement in the Varela Project, a democratic reform movement, begun in 2003.  He was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Luis Enrique Ferrer received the longest sentence of all of those arrested in the recent crackdown. He was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment and is currently being held at the prison Combinado del Este in Havana. It is unclear why Mr. Ferrer received such a particularly long sentence. His prison conditions are harsh. In a dark cell, no larger than 8 by 4 feet, with nowhere to sleep but a concrete platform, Luis Enrique Ferrer is reported to be suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea. Mr. Ferrer is being held in solitary confinement and is being subjected to additional punishment as a result of his refusal to wear prison uniform.

Another victim of the "black spring" crackdown of 2003.  Moran was a writer for the Cuban free press.  He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  He is still serving his sentence, despite his resistance inside prison.  There are reports that he has been badly treated and his that he is in ill health.  Here is a quote from this brave man, “If the communist regime does not respect my civil rights and liberties, how then can it ask me to respect its laws? It is precisely in this case that civil disobedience is to be employed.”
The number of journalists imprisoned in Cuba due to nothing more than their disagreement with the present regime is in the hundreds.  Many of them have been sentenced to near life terms.  We sadly cannot cover them all here, but refer you to our links for more information.  In our next installment of this series, we will cover the nations of Egypt and Iran.

It should be noted that many of our sources come from a French organization called Reporters Without Borders.  This organization has been criticized by Professor Salim Lamrani, from the University of Paris at the Sorbonne.  He claims that this organization has received funds from an organization entitled, National Endowments for Democracy, which is in turn funded directly by the U.S. Congress.  This has brought into question whether Reporters Without Borders is an objective observer of Cuban affairs.  The Cuban government claims that many of these "journalists" were arrested not because they expressed disagreement with government policies, but because they received money from the United States to attempt to disrupt Cuban political life.  They also claim that all but one of them were ever considered journalists before they expressed their views.  To us, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two polarities expressed either by Reporters Without Frontiers or the Cuban government.  Below is a video from the Cuban government attacking Reporters Without Frontiers.  Unfortunately for our non-Spahish speakers, it is in Spanish.

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