Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Cuba continues to operate with the most restrictive laws on free speech and free press in the hemisphere. According to the constitution, free speech and press are allowed if they "conform to the aims of socialist society," in effect giving the government license to maintain control over all media and impose stiff penalties on independent journalists. Laws allow up to 1 year in jail for spreading antigovernment propaganda, graffiti, and disrespect of officials (up to 3 years for cases involving criticism of President Fidel Castro or members of the Council of State); spreading enemy propaganda carries a sentence of up to 14 years. "Clandestine printing" is forbidden by the penal code, and failure to identify the author or press of a publication is punishable by three to six months in jail. In January, additional legislation was passed that limited Internet access to officially licensed businesses and government offices.
The laws used to prosecute journalists include Article 91 of the penal code, which establishes prison sentences or the death penalty for those who act against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." Law 88 (also known as the Law for the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba) establishes prison terms from three to eight years for reproducing and disseminating subversive material from the United States; the law further criminalizes collaboration with "foreign radio or television stations, newspapers, magazines, or other mass media," with penalties of up to eight years in prison if these activities are carried out for profit. In 2003, more than 30 independent journalists and human rights activists were arrested for alleged violations of Article 91 and Law 88 and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years. Following significant international protests, several of these journalists were released during the course of 2004, among them Jorge Olivera Castillo, Raul Rivero, Manuel Vazquez Portal, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, and Carmelo Diaz Fernandez. Some of those who had been released were in poor health; some later reported that they intended to go into exile. Of the original group, at least 22 journalists remained in jail at the end of 2004.
The Castro government maintains extensive efforts to monitor and control speech. Local branches of the Committee to Defend the Revolution are charged with reporting dissent. State security agents regularly carry out surveillance on both foreign and national journalists and have used undercover agents to infiltrate independent media organizations. Some foreign journalists were prevented from entering the country to carry out their reporting. Cuban independent journalists reported harassment, threats, confiscation of property, and limitation of their movements. The Cuban government continued to jam transmission of Radio and Television Marti, a U.S.-government-sponsored news service; in May, the Bush administration announced a plan to ensure free transmission of Marti programs by using military aircraft to broadcast them. All print and electronic media are state owned. Cubans also do not have access to foreign media, although some international papers are for sale in hotels. The Communist Party controls all national media content except for small, unauthorized publications sponsored by churches.