Cuba - Free expression must go with better communications, says Reporters Without Borders as blogs prove hard to acccess



    MONTREAL, March 31 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today
expressed concern that Cuban Internet users are struggling to get access to
blogs on the desdecuba.com platform that hosts, among others, one of the most
popular in the country, Generacion Y, a blog run by Yoani Sanchez.
    The platform (www.desdecuba.com) has been inaccessible from public
connection points in cybercafés and hotels since 2O March. The few private
connections, used for professional reasons or in secret, take at least
20 minutes to download the home page. Editing and moderating posts has become
impossible.
    "It is hard to believe that after ten days desdecuba.com is simply having
technical problems, even if there is a real problem getting an Internet
connection from Cuba. This situation is in contradiction to recent steps taken
by the authorities to ease access for Cubans to communications, especially the
Internet," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
    "Since you cannot have one without the other, the promise of greater
openness given by Raul Castro must include greater freedom of expression."
    Desdecuba.com hosts an online review, Consenso, and six blogs, including
Generacion Y (http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony), created in April 2007 by
Yoani Sanchez and regularly visited by large numbers of Cubans. More than one
million Internet users visited the young blogger's page in February 2008.
    Elsewhere, there have been difficulties accessing
http://www.cu.clasificados.com and http://www.revolico.net, both posting small
advertisements. The public company ETECSA, Cuba's sole access provider, has
not provided any explanation.
    The problems getting access to website pages comes at the end of a month
marked by several announced decisions to ease private acquisition of some
consumer goods. And on 28 March the government said it was allowing Cubans to
buy mobile phones and that the entire population would have access to a mobile
phone service. Three days earlier, it legalised the sale of computers,
televisions and tape-recorders and authorised the import of DVDs.
    Moreover, from today, Cubans are allowed to go into hotels, which were
previously reserved for foreigners, allowing them access to the international
Internet network.
    These steps are part of a policy of greater economic openness promoted by
Raul Castro, who officially took over as head of state from his brother,
Fidel, on 24 February this year, after 20 months of interim power. He promised
Cubans that he would put an end to "excessive bans and regulations".
    The Internet in Cuba is highly controlled. There is a "national" network
which gives users an email address and allows them to send emails abroad but
not to surf the net. The "international" network, which costs three times as
much, gives access to foreign news websites like the BBC, Le Monde, and Nuevo
Herald (Miami-based Spanish-language daily). But if you type in "google.fr",
for example, you are redirected to the pages of the official Cuban newspaper
Granma or the news agency Prensa Latina. Cuba figures on Reporters Without
Borders' list of "Internet Enemies" , which was released on 12 March 2008.




For further information:

For further information: Hélène Fargues, Reporters Without Borders
Canada, (514) 521-4111

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