The Communist Party controls all media - except a few small church-run publications - and journalists are vulnerable to government and economic pressure, operating within the confines of laws against anti-government propaganda. Any journalists convicted of contravening these laws receive long jail sentences. The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) describes Cuba in its 2006 annual report as "still the world's second biggest prison for journalists".
Journalists are trained in universities but there are no opportunities for carrying out investigative or independent journalism. All Cuban journalists are obliged to present only the views of the government and the Communist Party and to defend their values. Those who fail to do so are fired or imprisoned. Dissenting journalists practice independent journalism and operate clandestinely.
RSF stated that after castro's crackdown in March 2003 on Cuba's dissidents and fledgling independent press, many of the journalists involved were either jailed, gave up their profession or left the country, many fleeing to the USA. Miami - said to be the second largest Cuban city - hosts a large number of Cuban dissidents who advise the US government on ways to use the media to best effect to reach the Cuban population.
According to the Oxford-based Communications Law in Transition Newsletter, the Cuban Constitution states that print and electronic media are state property and cannot become private property.
The availability of foreign newspapers and magazines is very restricted; it is almost impossible to obtain a permit to use a satellite dish and radio and television signals specifically beamed to Cuba from the USA are jammed. The Cuban people therefore receive national and international news through the lens of their government- run media.
Radio and Television
Radio and television ownership per household is high, at or slightly above 90 per cent for both, but about 10 per cent more people use television than radio daily. The peak radio audience is between about 0630 and 0830 with about 20 per cent of adults listening to the radio. The peak television audience is between about 1900 and 2200 with about 70 per cent of adults watching.
The governmental organization, the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT), is responsible broadcasting on the island and according to its website: "Since its foundation the goal of the ICRT has been to fulfil the necessities of the people concerning information, education, culture and entertainment, through daily programming on radio and television which carries out the political, ideological, social, ethical and aesthetical values prevalent in our socialist society and to conduct, supervise and secure development of competitive broadcasting with the excellence of international patterns, guarantor of culture and national identity."
As in many authoritarian states, the internet in Cuba presents a dilemma; on one hand it is seen as a medium to promote education and research, but on the other it is seen as a danger to a government that restricts access to, and communication with, foreign agencies of all kinds - because it feeds its users with "counter- revolutionary" information.
Cuba is next to Iran and Vietnam among the countries with the most controlled and least accessible internet. Information available suggests that, unlike China, Cuba has placed greater emphasis on restricting access to the internet than on monitoring traffic, although monitoring also takes place. The Cuban government acknowledges that it blocks websites that it considers "terrorist, subversive or pornographic," which covers many information sites.
An increase in internet use led to the establishment of specific regulations in December 2004. Resolution 85/2004 requires that all internet service providers be registered with the government, with licenses issued for three years. Licenses cost approximately 300 Cuban pesos. Unauthorized use can result in sanctions or cancellation of a licence.
The Cuban government passed this decree so that the internet could only be accessed using a telephone service charged in US dollars, not generally available to ordinary Cubans.
Control of internet access is also exercised by limiting citizens' ability to own a computer or sign up for internet service without difficult-to-get government permits. Most desktop and laptop computers are only available to government enterprises or trusted officials, but anecdotal evidence suggests that computer parts are smuggled in and assembled. Most of those having their own PCs receive them as gifts from relatives abroad and the authorities allow them to be used for email, although this is usually restricted to contacting other email users on the island. Email access is also fairly common in and between offices.
Despite the above restrictions, Cuban government officials assured a television audience that the internet is available to everyone. When two independent journalists went to verify the statement, access was not available to them; they were told that due to limited recourses the service is limited to foreigners.
Read the detailed BBC report at Red Orbit