"Blocking search engines, charging the earth for internet, torturing activists to get their Facebook and Twitter passwords, passing laws that control what people can (and can’t) talk about online. These are just some of the ways in which nations from China to Iran, Cuba to Azerbaijan are preventing journalists, bloggers and activists from speaking out about human rights abuses." - Amnesty International, May 1, 2012 in World Press Freedom Day: Repression in the digital era
Below are some of the latest reports from Amnesty International on the situation in Cuba:
2 May 2012
Cuba: “The authorities attack us because we talk about the issues people face”
For Cuban journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas, posting an entry on his blog Crossing the Wire Fences or even sending an email is a daunting task. Every time he wants to access the internet, he has to leave his house in the early hours of the morning and travel 200 kilometres from his hometown of Holguín, in eastern Cuba, to the closest cybercafé. If he is lucky, and he is not stopped at a police checkpoint on the way, he will get to a computer in about three hours. Once there, Luis Felipe has to show ID to buy an access card and pay six US dollars to use the internet for sixty minutes – that is almost a third of a monthly local salary.
Some days he finds websites containing information considered critical of the government are blocked or messages have disappeared from his inbox. Internet access is so highly controlled in Cuba that critics of the government have come up with creative ways to ensure their stories get out. Sometimes that involves converting articles into digital images and sending them via SMS to a contact outside of Cuba, to type and post on Luis Felipe's blog. He also uses text messages for posting on Twitter but the lack of internet access means that he cannot see what others say to (or about) him.
Luis Felipe is part of a growing group of journalists and government critics who are finding new ways to by-pass state control in order to disseminate information about human rights abuses taking place in Cuba. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, independent journalists and bloggers have faced increased threats and intimidation when publishing information critical to the authorities.
The ‘Hablemos Press’ Information Centre, an unofficial news agency monitoring human rights abuses across Cuba, recently reported that from March 2011 to March 2012 inclusively, more than 75 independent journalists have been detained, some, like Caridad Caballero Batista up to 20 times. “After the mass release of prisoners of conscience in 2011, we have seen authorities sharpening their strategy to silence dissent by harassing government critics and independent journalists with short term detentions and public acts of repudiation,” said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba expert with Amnesty International.
On 25 March, Luis Felipe was detained in a local police station for five days in order to prevent him from travelling to attend an open-air mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. “The authorities attack us because we talk about the issues people face - that not everybody has enough food, that public services do not always work, that there are problems with the health service,” Luis Felipe said to Amesty International. “I have been scared many times. Scared of going to the street, of being beaten up, of being locked up for a long time and not seeing my children. But fear does not stop me. I do not think a tweet from me is going to save anybody from prison but it does save them from impunity.”
CUBA: PRISONER FREED, IF GIVES UP POLITICAL ACTIVISM: JOSÉ DANIEL FERRER GARCÍA
Index: AMR 25/016/2012
Date: 1 May 2012
PRISONER FREED, IF GIVES UP POLITICAL ACTIVISM
Prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García has been released, on condition that he gives up his political activism: he has been told that if he does so, his trial on trumped- up charges will not go ahead.
Prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García was released from prison on 29 April: he had been detained for 27 days, and charged with “public disorder” (desórdenes públicos). Amnesty International believes the charges are intended to prevent him from carrying out peaceful activities as coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Union Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), an umbrella group of organizations advocating for peaceful political change. He has asked for his thanks to be passed to the members of the UA network who took action on his behalf.
The Cuban authorities have told him that charges will be dropped if he agrees to stop his activism and ensures that other members of UNPACU do likewise. José Daniel Ferrer García had been released in March 2011 after serving eight years of a 25-year sentence for taking part in a campaign for a national referendum on democratic reforms in Cuba.
The authorities have now threatened that he will be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence if he does not comply. Amnesty International has called on the Cuban authorities to withdraw unconditionally any charges against José Daniel Ferrer García relating to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and to allow him and fellow members of UNPACU to carry out their activities free from harassment and the threat of detention.
Amnesty International will be monitoring his situation closely, and will take further action as appropriate. No further action is requested at this time from the UA network. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.
This is the second update of UA 99/12.
Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/012/2012
Name: José Daniel Ferrer García
Gender m/f: m Further information on UA: 99/12
Index: AMR 25/016/2012
Issue Date: 1 May 2012
CUBA: FURTHER INFORMATION: GOVERNMENT CRITIC RELEASED TO AWAIT TRIAL
Further information on UA: 100/12 Index: AMR 25/017/2012 Cuba
Date: 1 May 2012
URGENT ACTION GOVERNMENT CRITIC RELEASED TO AWAIT TRIAL
Government critic Andrés Carrión Álvarez has been released from prison , to await trial on trumped up charges. Andrés Carrión Álvarez was released from prison on 13 April to await trial on a charge of “public disorder” (desórdenes públicos) for shouting “freedom” and “down with communism” before an open air mass given by Pope Benedict XVI on 26 March.
Three days later, on 16 April, he was rearrested along with Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodríguez, a fellow member of the umbrella group of dissident organizations Patriotic Union of Cuba (Union Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU) as they were talking in a park in the centre of the city of Santiago de Cuba. Andrés Carrión Álvarez was charged with another count of “public disorder” before being released five hours later.
Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodríguez was held for five days, and then released without charge. As part of the conditions of his release, Andrés Carrión Álvarez must report to a police station once a week, is not allowed to leave his home municipality of Santiago de Cuba without prior authorization and must not to associate with anyone deemed by the authorities to be a government critic.
No date has been set for his trial. Amnesty International has called on the Cuban authorities to withdraw unconditionally any charges against Andrés Carrión Álvarez arising from his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and cease the harassment he is facing.
Andrés Carrión Álvarez has asked us to pass on his thanks to all those who took action on his behalf. Amnesty International will be monitoring his situation closely, and will take further action as appropriate.
No further action is requested at this time from the UA network. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.
This is the first update of UA 100/12.
Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/013/2012 Name: Andrés Carrión Álvarez Gender m/f: m Further information on UA: 100/12 Index: AMR 25/017/2012 Issue Date: 1 May 2012