Although the U.S. and Cuba have normalized relations, the island continues to be one of the most media repressive societies in the world, with a highly restrictive political environment and a lack of democratic institutions and guarantees for human rights. Fredom House notes that Cuba is the Western Hemisphere’s most restrictive environment for information and communication technologies, and it has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world.
Today the Cuban government continues to control all media platforms on the island.
The Cuban news media are owned and controlled by the state. The independent press is considered illegal and its publications are classified as “enemy propaganda.” Government agents routinely infiltrate the ranks of independent journalists, often accusing them of being mercenaries. Independent journalists, particularly those associated with the island’s dozen small independent news agencies or human rights groups, are subject to harassment.
An estimated 150,000 Cubans now have daily access to the internet, up from just 75,000 in 2014. Still, the island is among the least connected nations in the Western Hemisphere.
While it remains illegal to print or distribute independent media, both journalists and Cuba’s new media start-ups have used innovative methods to share information online via e-mail subscription services or weekly PDF news digests. A sophisticated data packet distribution system uses flash drives to circulate a weekly menu of digital information, and Cuba’s new private mobile phone repair shops often double as independent media and phone app distribution points.
Goals and Priorities
Increase the amount of content produced on the Island. OCB supports the development of a robust and free press in Cuba and is committed to Cuban journalists, Cuban independent producers and local collaborators across all platforms. Together, they develop sophisticated, platform appropriate content, targeting different audience segments in ways that offer them solutions and support in their drive for economic and political reforms.
Increase distribution across the spectrum to ensure that Martí content and other independent voices reach Cuban audiences.
Provide and promote new technologies that allow Cubans to connect with each other and the outside world free of government censorship.
Cuba Internet Freedom Conference (CIF)
On September 12 and 13, 2016, OCB hosted the first ever Cuba Internet Freedom Conference (CIF), an event that brought together digital innovators and independent journalists from Cuba with other individuals focused on improving digital rights and fostering uncensored access for the island. For the first time ever, a group of developers, policy makers, nonprofit professionals, entrepreneurs, concerned citizens and others, shared a space with Cuban Internet innovators and exchanged ideas that aim at educating people about the actual situation of the internet in Cuba.
Shifting to Social Media
With martinoticias.com often blocked inside Cuba, OCB developed a social media first strategy in early 2016, to focus its effort on Facebook and Youtube, two popular channels on the island. With all of its web content now available on Facebook, the Martis saw dramatic growth in digital audiences, increasing consumption by 40%. The results were dramatic, from reaching around 20,000 users per day in January 2015 to a reach of more than half a million users per day by July 2016. Another key decision that we made after Facebook Developer Conference was to publish 100% of all our web content on Facebook rather than publish links that redirect traffic to our web site. The also created a shift in demographics, moving from male adult (age 45 to 54) in 2016 to an audience composed of two predominant groups (25-34) and (35-44)
Alternate Distribution Methods to Reach the Island – In order to support the free flow of news and information to the island, the Martis continue the distribution of DVD’s with Marti content. This effort is currently supported by nine copy centers, 18 reception points, and 85 distribution points on island.