cross posted from The Dream Antilles
Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez, the 2008 Gasset y Ortega Prize winner for digital journalism, and her husband, Reynaldo Escobar, have been forbidden by the Cuban government from attending a blogger conference in Cuba.
Join me 90 miles South of Miami.
Police have prohibited Cuba’s most prominent blogger from attending an independent cyber-workshop and warned that her activities ran afoul of the law, her husband said Friday.
Yoani Sanchez and husband and fellow blogger Reynaldo Escobar were summoned separately Wednesday to a police station near their apartment in Havana’s Vedado district and reprimanded, Escobar said in a telephone interview.
Authorities told the couple they could not travel to the western province of Pinar del Rio for a two-day blogger’s workshop scheduled to begin Friday night.
“We aren’t attending the inauguration of the workshop, which has not been suspended. We’ve just changed the dynamic of how we are meeting,” said Escobar, without elaborating.
You can read about the “reprimand” at Generacion Y, Sanchez’s blog (in Spanish, but there’s a rough translation feature), but on Friday the blog was “blocked” from Cuban readers.
Is Cuba loosening up its restraint of free speech? Hardly.
The Communications Ministry put into effect a law this week that instructs the island’s Internet providers to “prevent access to sites where the content is contrary to social interests, morals or good custom, as well as the use of applications that affect the integrity or security of the State.”
Escobar said the police suggested Cuba was especially sensitive to criticism as it struggles to recover from the effects of three storms that hit in less than two months this hurricane season, causing more than $10 billion in damage.
Asked if Cuba could be in the midst of a cyber-crackdown, he said, “I don’t know how far they will go.”
“For dissidents who traditionally have been surrounded, things have gotten stricter,” Escobar said, referring to a small group of activists who dare criticize the island’s single-party system.
This isn’t the first time Cuba’s cracked down on Yoani Sanchez. As I wrote back in May, 2008, Cuba wouldn’t let Sanchez travel to Spain to collect the Ortega y Gasset prize. Back then, I asked questions that are doubly applicable today and which I now repeat:
…there hasn’t been much of an uproar, or support in Blogtopia for her right to travel or for her right to express herself without being penalized or calling for her to be allowed to leave Cuba long enough to visit Spain.
Why is that? What exactly does it take to have bloggers advocate for freedom of expression across the entire Internet? When are we going to understand the connections between all of us in the typing class? When are we going to support freedom of speech, even if we don’t agree with the politics or content of what is being written?
I’m asking because I remember Martin Niemoeller.
Sanchez’s blog gets about 1 million hits a month. My little blog gets fewer than 1,000. And Sanchez puts hers up traveling from library to library for Internet access. Surely there is something we can think of that will show our solidarity with her full right to express herself.