Points: 91 // Status: Not Free

193 - Cuba

The government owns virtually all traditional media except for a number of underground newsletters. It operates three national newspapers, five national television stations, six national radio stations, and one international radio station, in addition to numerous local print and broadcast outlets.

All content is determined by the government. In January 2013, the government permitted the broadcasting of Venezuelan news channel Telesur on the island. While the channel does not criticize the Cuban government, it does give viewers a look into the outside world. Cubans do not have the right to possess or distribute foreign publications, although some international papers are sold in tourist hotels. Private ownership of electronic media is also prohibited. A number of publications associated with the Roman Catholic Church are occasionally critical of the government.



Nearly 26 percent of Cubans had access to the internet in 2013. However, the majority of users can reach only a closely monitored Cuban intranet consisting of an encyclopedia, e-mail addresses ending in “.cu” that are used by universities and government officials, and a few government news websites. The penetration rate for real access to the global internet is estimated to be around 5 percent, with users often relying on black-market channels. For the average Cuban, access to the global internet comes through outdated dial-up technology and is in many cases limited to e-mail.

Cuba has the most restrictive laws on free speech and press freedom in the Americas. The constitution prohibits private ownership of media outlets and allows free speech and journalism only if they “conform to the aims of a socialist society.” Cuba’s legal and institutional structures are firmly under the control of the executive branch. Laws criminalizing “enemy propaganda” and the dissemination of “unauthorized news” are used to restrict freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. In 2013, independent or critical Cuban journalists and bloggers continued to suffer harassment for their reporting on topics deemed sensitive by the government.