Cuba - Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban



    MONTREAL, May 20 /CNW Telbec/ - On the anniversary of the Republic of
Cuba's creation on 20 May 1902, Reporters Without Borders calls for continued
diplomatic efforts that could help improve access to news and information on
the island. When Raúl Castro was installed as president on 24 February 2008,
he said he wanted to do away with "the excess of prohibitions and regulations"
but Cubans are still denied the Internet access enjoyed by foreign visitors
and 24 journalists are still in prison.
    "Raúl Castro's first actions as president raised hopes of more freedom,
but the reforms have fallen far short of initial expectations and the
population continues to be the victim of oppression," Reporters Without
Borders said. "We call for the repeal of regulations that discriminate against
Cubans and the continuation of diplomatic efforts likely to change the
situation."
    The press freedom organisation added: "We would also like to see the
lifting of the US embargo that has been in force since 1962. Condemned by the
entire international community, this embargo just bolsters the regime while
penalising the population."
    When Raúl Castro took over from his brother Fidel, he lifted a ban on
Cubans entering tourist hotels, which are one of the few places where the
Internet can be accessed. Nonetheless, it is often still impossible for Cubans
to get online (see video: http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/?p=929). Many
hotels ask would-be Internet users to prove that they live abroad.
    Raúl Castro also announced on 3 May 2008 that it would no longer be
illegal to possess a personal computer but they are so expensive that most
would-be bloggers cannot afford them. Computers are nonetheless being used to
circulate personal accounts and videos on the island, but a Cuban can get 20
years in prison under article 91 of the criminal code for posting a
"counter-revolutionary" article online and five years for connecting
"illegally" to the Internet.
    Cuba is the world's second biggest prison for journalists, after China.
Nineteen of the journalists currently in prison were arrested in 2003 and are
serving sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years that they received on the
spurious charge of being "mercenaries in the pay of the United States." They
include Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, the
editor of the magazine De Cuba, who is being held in Havana's Combinado del
Este prison.
    Four other journalists have received sentences ranging from three to four
years in prison since the "transition" from Fidel to Raúl Castro began in July
2006. The latest to be jailed was Alberto Du Bouchet of the Habana Press news
agency, who was sentenced to three years in prison on 12 May on a charge of
disrespect for authority.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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