There may be some subtle aspects to the Castro dictatorship’s war on the independent press, but the intention is overt and obvious.
The subtle brutality of Cuba’s war on press freedom
Since mid-July, whenever Cuban journalist Camila Acosta looks out her window, there are five people watching over her home in Havana: two policemen, two women dressed in everyday clothes and one man — always a man — also in plain clothes; she’s certain he is from Cuba’s state security agency.
Acosta was arrested while covering anti-regime protests that erupted in the Cuban capital in July. It was the biggest show of defiance in decades against the communist era that began in 1959.
Like hundreds of others, Acosta was detained. Officially, she says she is facing charges of “public disturbance” and “inciting crime.” She spent four harrowing days in prison, during which she was interrogated for hours each day.
“They wanted to know who I work for. How much I earn. And what I report on. They weren’t asking me about my supposed disorderly conduct,” Acosta told me on a call from her home, where she has been under house arrest since July 16.
Simply put, Acosta — who is a Havana correspondent for the Spanish daily ABC and reports for CubaNet, an independent digital outlet based outside the country — was arrested for practicing journalism.
For three and a half months, she has only been allowed to walk out her front door to seek medical care or meet with her lawyer. Each time, she’s stopped by the agents guarding her home.
“They ask me where I’m going. They check to make sure I have permission,” she told me. “And they follow me everywhere I go.”
Internationally, there is sometimes a perception that Cuba is less repressive today than it was in the past. Following the detente with the United States that began in 2015, fewer artists and intellectuals were imprisoned, and with much more connectivity to the rest of the world via the Internet, it’s seductive to think that Cuba is no longer the closed society it became under Fidel Castro’s leadership.
But that is a digital mirage.
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