Freedom of the Press
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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 have the most restrictive laws on free speech and press freedom in the hemisphere. The constitution prohibits private ownership of media and allows free speech and press only if they "conform to the aims of a Socialist society." Cuba's legal and institutional structures are firmly under the control of the executive. The country's criminal code provides the legal basis for the repression of dissent, and under the guise of protecting state security, laws criminalizing "enemy propaganda" and the dissemination of "unauthorized news" are used to restrict freedom of speech. Insult laws carry penalties of three months to one year in prison, with sentences of up to three years if the president or members of the Council of State or National Assembly are the objects of criticism. The 1997 Law of National Dignity, which provides for jail sentences of 3 to 10 years for "anyone who, in a direct or indirect form, collaborates with the enemy's media," is aimed at the independent news agencies that send their material abroad.
The few journalists who do work for independent news agencies, write articles for foreign websites, or publish underground newsletters are routinely monitored, harassed, detained, interrogated, or imprisoned. At best they are accused of giving the Cuban revolution a "bad name," at worst of working as counterrevolutionaries for the United States government or Cuban exiles. Most of the 28 journalists arrested in March 2003-as part of a group of 75 dissidents accused of collaborating with the United States-remain in detention, many of them suffering from chronic diseases or ailments acquired in prison. One of them, Mario Enrique Mayo Hernandez, who wounded himself and waged repeated hunger strikes to call attention to his plight, was released on medical parole in December. Two other journalists were arrested and imprisoned during 2005. Oscar Mario Gonzalez, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, and Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernandez, director of the independent news agency Havana Press, are both believed to have been jailed as a result of their coverage of a May congress that brought together 200 opposition activists and observers. The authorities also detained and expelled five foreign journalists who had traveled to Cuba to cover the same meeting.
The Communist Party controls all national media, including all print and electronic media outlets, apart from one or two unauthorized Catholic Church newsletters. Cubans do not have access to foreign media, although some international papers are for sale in hotels. The government continues to jam transmissions of the U.S. government