Cuba remains, year in and year out, the worst country for press freedom in Latin America.
Televisions, radios, and newspapers are all closely monitored by the government. The constitution prohibits privately owned media. Tele Rebelde and Cubavisión are the leading TV channels, and Radio Reloj is the radio station with the most listeners. Granma is the most widely distributed newspaper, and like all media, it is under state control. Independent journalists are closely watched by state security officers, who try to restrict their movements and periodically interrogate them, deleting information from their devices.
Miguel Díaz-Canel, a protégé of Raúl Castro, replaced the latter in 2019 as the country’s president, and then as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. Like Raúl Castro and his late brother Fidel, who had ruled since 1959, he maintains almost total control over news and information.
Access to the Internet is still mostly controlled by the state. Bloggers and journalists can express themselves online but do so at their own risk. They are often subjected to harassment that may range from being held for questioning to being placed under house arrest to prevent them from covering major events. The dream of an open, free and inclusive Internet was rendered even more distant by new regulations in 2021 that completely violated the right to freedom of expression and information in the digital domain. A new penal code adopted in 2022 reinforces the repertoire of Cuban repression with vague terms such as “public disturbances”, “contempt”, and “danger to constitutional order” that can easily be used as grounds for prosecuting journalists.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the reinforcement of US sanctions have resulted in Cuba’s worst economic crisis in 30 years, pushing many Cubans to try to emigrate by any means possible.
The open dissent expressed in the San Isidro movement in November and December 2020 followed by the massive street protests on 11 July 2021 unleashed a harsh crackdown similar to the one in the Black Spring of 2003.
Arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of imprisonment, persecution and harassment, illegal raids on homes, confiscation and destruction of equipment – all this awaits journalists who do not toe the Cuban Communist Party line. The authorities also control foreign journalists’ coverage by granting accreditation selectively, and by expelling those considered “too negative” about the government.