Cuban dissidents said Monday that Raúl Castro’s communist government is censoring mobile text messages that contain certain words, including “democracy” and “human rights,” Reuters reports:
Text messages that included the Spanish translation for democracy, human rights, or hunger strikes, along with the names of some Cuban dissidents, all failed to deliver.
“We always thought texts were vanishing because the provider is so incompetent, then we decided to check using words that bothered the government,” Eliecer Avila, head of opposition youth group Somos Mas, which participated in the investigation, told Reuters.
“We discovered not just us but the entire country is being censored,” he continued. “It just shows how insecure and paranoid the government is.”
The Cuban government’s heavy-handed censorship practices are well documented, and evident in the virtual absence of independent print and broadcast journalism. Yet recently many Cubans have shown themselves remarkably well informed about the outside world, in ways that cannot be explained by their traditional media offerings, says a new report from the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance:
This newfound benefit is the result of a parallel world of digital media, supported by ingenious Cuban workarounds. Cubans are largely deprived of data plans and broadband services, through a combination of restrictive government pricing policy and low incomes. But there’s been a “Cuban solution” that relies heavily on offline mobile apps to leverage the country’s antiquated 2G network, and flash drives to relay content to the public. The new Cuban media is profoundly social—but its starting point is “social” in the traditional sense: conveyed through person-to-person interactions via real-life social networks of family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.
In “Cuba’s Parallel Worlds: Digital Media Crosses the Divide,” Anne Nelson analyzes the findings of two years of research, including extensive field work and on-the-ground surveys across the island. Nelson explores how the Cuban population has overcome restrictive information policies and limited infrastructure to access news and information. Indeed, the spread of technology on the island may be creating a new opening for long-stalled media development efforts.