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Inter American Press Association reports harassment of journalists in report published on October 19

On October 19 the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) released a report on press freedom in Cuba, documenting the deterioration of freedom of speech in the island. The report indicates that journalists, bloggers, and detractors of the government continue to suffer harassment at the hands of authorities. According to IAPA, the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) is the main body in charge of coordinating and executing repression, which takes the form of short-term arrests without judicial warrants, intimidation of close family and friends, internal deportations, confiscation of personal assets, surveillance and phone tapping. The report also states that security services dispatch agents to harass journalists in public spaces, including cases of sexual abuse against female dissidents. IAPA further denounces that although men are more frequently detained, MININT applies most severe punishments on women, especially those believed of passing on their beliefs to their children. The same source also indicates that MININT executes defamatory campaigns against journalists in their neighborhoods and on the Internet, in some instances prohibiting them to leave the country. Finally, the report stresses that security services are also known for harassing foreign journalists by means of arbitrary and lengthy interrogations upon arrival to the country, and obstruction of residence in the country.

The reforms leading to the expansion of certain individual freedoms that occurred under President Raúl Castro, such as the introduction of phones and personal computers for average citizens, have perceivably increased Cubans’ appetite for access to information and desire for social and political expression. While in April Castro stepped down from power and passed the mantle to former First Vice President, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the new leader has shown reluctance to ease the government’s tight control over the political system. For instance, although a new constitution is slated to be approved in February 2019, it is most likely meant to consolidate the ruling party’s hold on society. Despite the new constitution will purportedly allow greater press freedom, the draft of the text suggests the state will continue to ban private ownership of media outlets, thus limiting publishers and broadcasters to state-sponsored platforms. In this context, we assess that the government will most likely continue to disregard reported cases of abuse against dissidents and journalists alike. In any case, it would seem the government is attempting to minimize exposure to international condemnation, chiefly by adopting short-term punishments which often go unnoticed by international human right organization. Local and foreign journalists alike will therefore remain vulnerable to harassment and intimidation in the foreseeable future.

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