Cuba Needs a Freedom of Information Act

The right to know: with access to public and transparent information in Cuba

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – You need to be informed in order to make decisions. Hiding or standing in the way of access to public information today only violates civil rights stipulated by international Law. It also limits conversation and action regarding circles of power. Opacity and lack of transparency are regular practices in closed regimes, like in Cuba.

The right to information has been studied and indexed for the “crucial” capacity it gives citizens to question their representatives and make them answer for their leadership. Many countries within the region have public policies that regulate and facilitate this right, but Cuba isn’t one of them.

How the State budget is invested, beyond graphs being presented with general headings on the Mesa Redonda program, should be public knowledge. Having data about how many Cuban women are victims of femicide or contact information for key public officials should be accessible.

Advocating for access to quality information, a group of Cuban media projects has joined the Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information and has presented a joint campaign “Derecho a Saber”, in favor of citizens’ right to public information.

CubaNet, Alas Tensas, Arbol Invertido, Diario de Cuba, El El Estornudo, elTOQUE, Hypermedia, Periodismo de Barrio, Rialta and Tremenda Nota have joined efforts and resources to warn about the little awareness of people’s right to information and, also, about the deregulated use bodies responsible for ensuring this right have over it. For example, in Cuba, “matters of national security” are constantly brandished to deny information.

Users will be able to find visual resources, graphics, animations under a Creative Commons license on an attractive website, so they “can be freely used by any person or organization interested in reproducing them, without the need for previous authorization.”

Freedom of Information is recognized in Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution, but this recognition isn’t enough.

In order to demand information, its publication and establish control mechanisms – beyond accountability of a lawmaker that might only raise concerns – we need laws, but also skills and knowledge that will allow Cubans to pass from being spectators to becoming decision-makers in their own lives and public policies.

“Citizens have the right to know where and how they can receive public services, to know what the State budget is being invested in, and what decisions are being made that affect their everyday lives. It is the State’s duty to provide this information,” the campaign’s press release reads.

According to this tool for citizens, “the Cuban Government is working with UNESCO on a Law about information transparency and access to information, but it will only be promulgated in October 2022.”

In the meantime, it’s important to demand that the entire process linked to the draft and approval of this law is truly public knowledge and accessible for everyone.

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