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State media journalists obliged to use only government portal to go online

(RSF/IFEX) - At the behest of Communication Minister Ramiro Valdés, the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television sent a letter to the heads of state media on 13 August 2007 announcing new restrictions on their staff. They must henceforth use a portal created by the Cuban state telecommunications company, , to access websites and email services. This will enable the government to easily monitor their online activity.

"Forcing state media journalists to go through a government website so that all their online activity can be monitored is further evidence of the government's paranoia," RSF said. "It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of Cuban citizens are not allowed to have a connection to the Internet on the pretext that the US embargo has held up its development" (see IFEX alert of 20 October 2006).

According to the Madrid-based website Encuentro en la Red, the letter also instructed state media outlets to make an "appropriate" choice of staff to update their websites and said the web-browsing facilities made available to "trusted" journalists could be subject to additional controls. It is the journalists of the official daily newspapers "Granma", "Juventud Rebelde" and "Trabajadores" who will be forced to use the new Internet connection method.

The letter, sent out on Fidel Castro's 81st birthday, follows the communication minister's comment in February that the Internet was a "tool of global extermination" that had to be "controlled." Encuentro en la Red said print media journalists have already been restricted to an hour of web-surfing a day, since 2003. In April 2007, the government blocked access to Yahoo! and Hotmail websites from the state radio and television stations.

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