Reposting an interesting article I read on the freedom of expression in Cuba from the Sampsonia Way magazine. What’s interesting is the disparity between blogs that are essentially propaganda for the government and those more independent and critical of government. Much like in Sri Lanka, the amount of blogs dealing seriously with politics and journalism is a fraction of the total number of blogs in the country, even amongst those outside of government.
Like those who have placed their hopes for a democratic future in boats, Cuban bloggers place their hope in missives sent into cyberspace not knowing if they will reach their intended target.
In this country of 11.5 million, the independent blogosphere remains very small because of obstacles to Internet access and fear of repression and reprisal. According to a recent report of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) there are 300 blogs on Cuba; 200 of which are operated by journalists who work for the government; Of the remaining 100, only 25 are journalistic in nature and are regularly updated.
Acquiring a computer in Cuba is not an easy task. People who own computers can be divided into three groups: those who work for the government; those who manage to buy them in government stores at prices far out of reach for most Cubans; and those who obtain them illegally. The final group uses their computers in hiding and in fear that the police will search their homes and confiscate their machines.
However obtaining a computer outfitted for Internet access doesn’t guarantee you can surf the web. On paper, the government approved a law allowing free use of the Internet, but in practice, bloggers claim, getting on-line is expensive and near impossible. In an email interview, blogger Orlando Luis Pardo wrote that access to the Internet is the privilege of those who have Peso Convertibles, money created exclusively for tourists. One hour on the Internet in a hotel or cybercafé costs the equivalent of one-week’s salary.
According to the CPJ report, Cubans need a password issued by the government Internet provider to have private access to the web. Like many things in Cuba, you can find these passwords on the black market, but their cost is equal to two week’s salary.
If everything is so expensive, how the bloggers afford their endeavors? Most of them don’t have unlimited access, so they read their posting over the phone to friends overseas who post on their behalf. Others are less candid about their methods because they finance their blogs by working illegally as tourist guides or Spanish teachers, among other things.
Read Cuban Bloggers: Blogging Under Fear — The Risks of Virtual Protests in full here.