NEW YORK — An independent press is emerging in Cuba despite a constitutional requirement that media be controlled by the one party communist state, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report issued Wednesday.
CPJ said bloggers, documentary filmmakers and others have been creating new spaces for free expression and entrepreneurial journalism, but they are still hindered by the threat of arbitrary detention and limited internet access.
“The change in Cuba’s outlook toward a more free press is a welcome development,” Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s program director and senior Americas program coordinator said. “The government needs to ground these changes in the country’s constitution and other legal frameworks so that journalists and bloggers can report freely and without fear of persecution.”
The advent of an independent media can be traced back to 2011 when President Raul Castro introduced free market reforms, but these reforms have been sluggishly implemented and even reversed in some cases, the report states.
The restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba in December 2014 also made it harder to justify press censorship as a way to protect from American aggression, the report said, citing Cuban journalists.
The report includes an overview of internet access in Cuba, which ranks last in terms of connectedness in the Americas, complicating efforts by journalists to distribute their content online.
Cuba also has the most restrictive free speech laws in the Americas and it ranked 10th on CPJ’s 2015 list of world’s most censored nations.
CPJ said that many of the journalists it interviewed said they sometimes avoid publishing work that is overtly critical of the government because of the lack of legal protections.
The organization called on the Cuban government to dismantle the current legal framework that allows censorship and arbitrary detention and to improve internet access for the island’s 11 million citizens.