Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

The dictatorship continues to crush its citizens with a double vice: social misery, encompassing economic disaster, public health, or surveillance in the fields and cities, and the greased imposition of the repressive mechanism through the arbitrary use of courts and laws, the absolute control of public powers, and the monopoly of telecommunications and media. All of this is subordinate to the interests of Raúl Castro's family, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the top echelons of the Communist Party, who control repression through the State Security.

Amidst the economic crisis of survival, those journalists who still cannot or do not wish to emigrate suffer the tension of continuous surveillance, harassment against their relatives and contacts, and the permanent threat of arbitrary arrests and prison sentences.

The dictatorship keeps about 1,100 people imprisoned and convicted for protesting in the streets, criticizing the authorities on social networks, filming demonstrations, or taking photos for Facebook with the country's flag draped over their bodies. Only those with terminal illnesses or who have served their sentence have been released.

Among these numbers, more than 40 detainees were present in March following protests in Santiago de Cuba, El Cobre, and Bayamo, among other localities, and there are several independent journalists. One of them is Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, with serious health problems, who was imprisoned in mid-2021 for filming and disseminating the launch of leaflets with quotes from 19th-century national heroes. Others, like Jorge Bello and José Antonio López Piña, were imprisoned for their participation in the national protests of July 11, 2021.

Several citizens also serve time in prison or under house arrest for filmed protests. Mayelín Rodríguez Prado was imprisoned, exposed on television, and sentenced for interviewing two girls beaten by agents of the Ministry of the Interior during the social protests in Nuevitas. The influencer, Sulmira Martínez, was imprisoned for inciting protests and criminal behavior, being part of a group that is heavily persecuted and threatened, also for contempt or criticizing Díaz-Canel, crimes that, like the outrage against national symbols and propaganda, are part of the Penal Code.

Various citizens imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression in the streets or networks continue to be harassed, threatened, mistreated, and without access to medical care and in poor hygiene conditions.

Not imprisoned in jails but with an arbitrary prohibition from leaving the country are several journalists, among them Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of 14ymedio; Camila Acosta and Anais Remón, collaborators of CubaNet, and Henry Constantín, director of La Hora de Cuba and vice president for Cuba of the SIP's Press Freedom Commission.

Moreover, decree 370 continues to be a tool for repressing those who express themselves online. In state companies and institutions, schools and universities, and even access to the Internet, one of the primary conditions continues to be docile behavior toward the authorities.

Recently, military service has been imposed as a mandatory condition for young women to access Journalism studies, which reduces interest in the profession. The state telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, continues to block dozens of independent media and organizations' websites. Internet cuts occur on special dates, like International Human Rights Day, or in places like Santiago de Cuba on March 17 to curb protests.

Some general news and opinion media continue to exist with their directives and editorial teams inside the island, among them 14ymedio, La Hora de Cuba, Convivencia magazine, several alternative thematic magazines, and print media of the Catholic Church. All operate without legal or commercial recognition, and any external material support involves an extra risk because the Penal Code punishes receiving foreign financing without approval with imprisonment.

These media employ between 40 and 70 journalists, audiovisual producers, and photographers who work both inside and outside the country. The majority do so anonymously. None of the individuals working in the independent press have access to social security that recognizes their work. All lack guarantees to receive state or private payments for retirement, maternity, or vacations or to maintain bank deposits.

Some of the most notable cases of assaults on freedom of expression include the legal process against academic and editor of Cuba x Cuba Alina Bárbara López, who was sentenced to pay a fine for the crime of contempt. Before that sentence, López was prohibited from leaving the country for months, the same punishment suffered by writer Jorge Fernández Era, who remains under house arrest.

In Camagüey, journalist Jorge Luis Tan was detained for his attempt to help homeless people and threatened because of the content of his publications. Iris Mariño, a member of the board of La Hora de Cuba, was sexually assaulted by an unidentified man in the street. On the afternoon of the assault, she was filmed with a mobile phone as she left her house in Camagüey by an individual stationed on the sidewalk. That day, she planned to attend the signing of a declaration that demanded complete freedom of expression.