Cuba’s illogical Transparency and Access to Information Law

Cuba’s illogical Transparency and Access to Information Law

Published on 15 Dec 2023

Restricting rights in their legislative "guarantee".

As the Cuban regime prepares to approve in December its restrictive Law on Transparency and Access to Information, Cuban civil society reactivates the campaign #TenemosDerechoASaber (WeHaveTheRightToKnow).

The Legislative Observatory of Cuba pointed out that, although in December Cuba could cease to be one of the few countries in Latin America without a law on access to information of a public nature, the Law on Social Communication continues to represent an obstacle to the exercise of that right on the island.

In a document published on its web page, the Observatory recalled that the Law of Transparency and Access to Information, approved in May but not yet published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba, “does not recognize the legal personality of the independent press media”.

The organization stressed that the regime’s “popular consultation” on said Law does not mean that the criteria of the citizenry will be taken into account, and that despite its approval, it will be the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) that will decide what Cubans can know.

What the Law says

Like the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information, the Observatory criticized that the draft bill contains a restrictive concept of what constitutes public information.

It also highlighted “the lack of explicit recognition of the obligation of active transparency of all information related to the assets of public officials, the procedures for the political participation of citizens and the ways to access public data and data of general interest”.

In addition to the above, there are other factors in the Cuban political and legal context. Among these is the approval on May 26, 2023 of a Social Communication Law, not yet published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba, which does not recognize the legal personality of the independent press media.

To this must be added the criminalization of journalism carried out by such media since the entry into force of normative provisions such as the Penal Code and Decree Laws No. 35 and 370, as well as the elements indicated in the draft bill on Transparency and Access to Public Information.

Diario de Cuba’s lawyer, Edel Gonzalez Jimenez, called attention to the fact that both decree laws were approved on schedule, according to the legislative chronogram set in June. Other norms that were included in the schedule from 2019 have not yet been approved.

“The political leadership of the country conceives the issue as a priority, not so the development and delivery of freedoms and individual rights denied and postponed,” said the jurist. Examples of the above are the norm that should regulate the constitutional rights to demonstrate and assemble peacefully, and to housing.

“The norm is a way of perfecting and updating old mechanisms that severely affect the scope of the right to information that Article 53 of the Constitution claims to recognize to citizens,” Gonzalez Jimenez points out.

MININT’s superpowers to censor

According to the information received from Cuba, the MININT continues to have the powers to dictate norms and procedures in matters of Security and Protection of Official Information; to carry out inspections, audits and controls of the Security and Protection of Official Information, including Cryptography and Computer Security. Also to promote the training of qualified personnel and the development of science and technology in the field of Security and Protection to Official Information, Computer Security and Cryptography.

“These super powers are the ones that actually impede the essential part or content of the rights of access to information, disclosure, criticism or opinion of Cubans, given that what is not classified as secret or limited for society is short or small. The Government and its agencies are tied hand and foot to the interests of the MININT”, explains González Jiménez.

“The MININT is the one that has the control and monopoly of the data and information that must be classified in Cuba. In fact, if any information has to be classified and is not encrypted, there are fines for the officials in charge of these departments.”

The jurist pointed out that, although all countries have regulations for classifying information, “this process is minimal or exceptional, since they fully comply with the principle of maximum disclosure. In Cuba, although the draft Law on Transparency and Access to Information recognizes this principle, such recognition is pure letter.”

#TenemosDerechoASaber: the citizen campaign

The social media campaign under the hashtag #TenemosDerechoASaber is an initiative promoted by Alianza Regional, a network of 17 NGOs in 15 countries in the Americas that work regionally to improve and guarantee access to information and freedom of expression.

With this campaign, the Regional Alliance seeks to make visible the realities of Cuba in terms of access to information and the restrictions that exist despite the new law that the regime seeks to promote.

“#TenemosDerechoASaber is a campaign to spread the right to be informed and to know, among Cuban citizens,” says the Alliance in a message on its X account.

“Considering that access to public information is a “key-right” (it can help citizens to demand other rights with greater certainty and justification), Cuban media and projects have joined together in coordination with the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information to present a joint campaign in favor of the right of access to public information,” reads the campaign’s web page.

For more information on socio-political manipulation on social media you can follow us on all as @ProBoxVE.

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