Cuban government passed a new decree that has controlled the use of social media from the third week of August 2021. The watershed decree also prohibits anyone from publishing anything that might harm the country’s reputation and prestige. Decree 35, the new rule has sparked outrage amongst citizens and international human rights activists.
It was published in the official gazette on 17 August 2021. It appears as retaliation after strong anti-government protesters stormed the communist country in decades. The protest became widespread due to information shared on social media platforms.
The decree makes sharing false information or news which can instigate or abet violence against the government or which provokes people to mobilize in large numbers to override the public order. The legislation provides a platform for vigilante Cubans to provide information about incidents of violations of the new law.
The act will brand all violators as cyberterrorists. The act was silent on the penalty to be imposed if anyone is charged with violating rules of Decree 35. However, President Miguel Diaz- Canel defended the rule by branding it as a law against spreading cyber threats and unverified information. He blames protests held on 11 July 2021 to be instigated by counter-revolutionaries backed by the USA.
Cuba’s intelligentsia is comparing the political situation to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Law should be specific; they fear that vague or ambiguous interpretation of the law can lead to arbitrariness which is against the rule of law and constitutional values of any country.
Cubans have been using Facebook and WhatsApp for two years now after mobile internet was introduced in the rule of the totalitarian regime. It allowed people to share their opinions and expression online in a state where physical movement in public places is strictly controlled.
Amnesty international’s director for America, Erika Guevara-Rosas, termed the passing of new legislation as a new form of digital repression. She also noted that the Cuban government already policies and holds a monopoly over access to the internet. It is important to note that access to the internet has been recognized as a human right in some countries.
Nicaragua passed similar legislation last year declaring some acts as cybercrimes and it was used blatantly to censor freedom of speech and expression against injudicious decisions of the ruling party.
Cuba’s new act gives power to telecom authorities who can suspend internet services to people who are found to violate the law after consulting with the relevant authorities.
Last month US government stated that it has been working with the private sector and congress to facilitate the access of the internet to Cubans. The new law is a retaliation against the US efforts to uproot the ruling party in the country.
Some Cuban Americans have been encouraging people of the island nation to commit an act of sabotaging the government and to stand unified against the totalitarian regime..