Cuban Journalists Say Facebook Curbs Ability to Work
November 29, 2021
Facebook has been accused of blocking independent journalists in Cuba
from sharing posts as opposition groups have called for protests to
continue against the island's communist government.
The social media platform, whose parent company is now known as Meta,
sends messages to journalists regularly, telling them that they cannot
share messages, three different reporters told VOA. The journalists
complain this prevents them from sharing information, which they say is
crucial to their work.
It comes as Archipelago, an opposition group, attempted to stage a
nationwide protest on November 15 even though the demonstration was
prohibited by order of the Cuban government. Archipelago claimed that
its supporters were unable to take to the streets because police and
government supporters prevented them from leaving their homes.
Despite this, Archipelago called on protesters to continue their
struggle by dressing in white, carrying white roses, creating personal
videos and banging pots and pans until November 27.
The campaign coincides with the first anniversary of a demonstration in
Cuba by hundreds of people protesting curbs on freedom of expression and
the detention of artists and activists, in particular the Cuban rapper
Denis Solis Gonzalez, which led to a rally outside the culture ministry.
The Cuban government has said that the November 15 demonstration was
orchestrated by the U.S. government and failed because of a lack of
Independent journalists told VOA that their ability to report on events
was hampered by being blocked at times from Facebook.
José Manuel Moreno Borrego, who works for Comunitario Amanecer Habanero,
an online news outlet that is not aligned with the Cuban government, has
been effectively under house arrest along with his wife for months.
Their twin sons are allowed to go to school.
“I cannot share messages on Facebook with people at times. I get a
message saying that I was not permitted to do this, but there is no
explanation. This is happening every two months or so,” he told VOA by
telephone from Havana. “I am talking to you by WhatsApp, which is owned
by Facebook but it is autonomous. I think the government may have put
pressure on Facebook to block us.”
VOA contacted Meta for comment. “Per our policies on spam, we restrict
an individual's ability to repeatedly post the same content, which is
what took place here,” a spokesperson said in a written response. “Any
suggestion otherwise is inaccurate.”
The platform strongly denied that Meta was restricting people's ability
to post in groups because of pressure by a government. To the contrary,
Meta said its apps give people an online voice.
Moreno said since the attempted demonstration by opposition groups on
November 15, there are fewer police on the streets but the state
pressure on independent journalists has not relented.
“The state pressure has not been relaxed at all. It is less palpable but
there are always people outside my house keeping watch,” he said.
Alberto Corzo, the director of the Cuban Institute for the Freedom of
Expression and Press (ICLEP) on the island, has been under house arrest
since thousands took to the streets in July in the largest
demonstrations in decades.
ICLEP is an nongovernmental organization that has created a network of
independent journalists in Cuba. Last week, police brought new charges
against Corzo of public disorder, a crime that could bring a five-year
prison term. He was accused of putting up posters that were critical of
the Cuban government, an allegation he strongly denies.
“This has been very tough for me and my family. I am stuck here at home
waiting to hear the decision of the court,” he told VOA from his home in
Cuba's Matanzas province. “I have had trouble with Facebook at times
which stops me sharing posts to groups. Of course, this makes working
more difficult but there are ways around it.”
Like other Cuban journalists who work for independent media, Corzo uses
social media to do his job. Corzo said he always deletes the links to
the Facebook groups and his posts after he has sent them “for security
Camila Acosta, a journalist who works for the Spanish daily newspaper
ABC and Cubanet, a news website, has been under house arrest since she
was detained after the street demonstrations.
“I have been here in my house for four months or longer with people
watching me from the corner of the block. I have to work from home. This
is only possible because I can access social media,” she said. “At the
start of the year, I was unable to get into Facebook. It blocked me. But
I was able to restore access to it.”
In an effort to ask the Cuban government about the treatment of
independent journalists, VOA contacted the Cuban Embassy in Madrid and
the International Press Center in Havana but did not receive a response.
Bruno Rodriguez, the Cuban foreign minister, said in an interview with
The Associated Press last week that protests failed because of a lack of
“The announced fall of the internet did not occur and there was no
repression, no marches or militarization of the country,” he tweeted
protest marches planned for November 15 would have coincided with the
reopening of the country to tourism and schools after 20 months of
lockdown because of the coronavirus epidemic. However, the Cuban
government banned the marches because it was eager to avoid a repeat of
the July protest, analysts have suggested.
“The abuse of the reporting mechanism in social media as a means of
censorship is extensive in many countries, and Cuba is one of them,”
Marianne Díaz Hernández of Access Now, an international organization
devoted to defending digital rights, told VOA.
“Even though frequently the platform, in this case Facebook, may
eventually restore their access after appeals, this is not always an
option for many people since the appeal mechanism requires a level of
access and comfort with technology and bureaucracy which can be out of
reach for many people.”
Díaz Hernández added, “In Cuba, even though access to the internet has
opened up a bit in the past couple of years, it is still very expensive
and not at all something which is available for everyone — which means
that decisions like this take a larger toll for them than they would for
other people in countries where access is more widely available.”