Freedom of Expression According to the OAS: No News on the Front Lines

By Iroel Sánchez – Feb 9, 2021

“Curfew, with almost five hundred eye mutilations, with a constitutional state of emergency, with military in the streets, with weekly repression, with two hundred kids who have been imprisoned for more than a year, more than a year imprisoned without charges for having participated in the revolts, in jails with common prisoners…” is the picture recently described by Chilean academic Pedro Santander about the situation in his country.

Added to this is the recent murder of a street artist at the hands of the police, which has unleashed intense protests with their corresponding repression.

Curious about such a serious event, I checked the social media accounts of the Organization of American States (OAS), and particularly the Twitter account of its rapporteur for freedom of expression, and found nothing on the subject but a surprise: Three of the last four tweets of Mr. Stuardo Ralón, who holds that position, are dedicated to Cuba and two of them to “the aggressions suffered by artists and writers” in Cuba, amplified by the U.S. government radio station Radio Television Martí.

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Nothing new under the sun. Four years ago, at a United Nations event, I had the opportunity to personally meet Mr. Edison Lanza, Mr. Ralón’s predecessor, and to see his commitment to freedom of expression, which I recorded in a post that I reproduce below:

On the day prior to the start of the Internet Global Forum (IGF) that begins in Guadalajara, Mexico, several “pre-event” workshops were held. In one of them, the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) presented its report on the protection of journalists and freedom of expression, which includes the murder of 84 reporters during 2015 worldwide, a topic on which the remarks of the seven panelists were focused, leaving just fifteen minutes for questions from the public from where three people intervened, the last of which was me.

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Since one of the speakers (David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the UN Human Rights Council for Freedom of Expression) referred to the use of trolls in threats on social networks against journalists, I asked for the floor to expose how from anonymous profiles people who benefit from the more than 20 million dollars that the U.S. government allocates to “programs to promote democracy in Cuba” threaten Cuban journalists, even causing the cancellation of their accounts in social networks, as recently happened with my Facebook profile.

Likewise, I referred to how several people from publications and organizations financed by the U.S. government issue threats against Cuban journalists. I specifically mentioned the video recently disseminated by the website Diario de Cuba, which calls for the “overthrow” of the Cuban government and calls for “drag ging all communists”. Diario de Cuba is a publication financed by the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy. I asked if the organizations represented on the panel were in a position to investigate this.

From the panel, Mr. Edison Lanza, rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS), took the floor and stated that if he received information about these “alleged” threats to freedom of expression, he would investigate, but when before my speech, a lady accused Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa of persecuting journalists in that country, Mr. Lanza took it as a fact.

At the end of the session I went to Mr. Edison Lanza to ask him for a card with his e-mail address, in order to send him the information about what I had raised and his answer was -despite the fact that the event that will last all this week had not yet started- “I ran out of cards” and he gave me orally and hurriedly an e-mail address that I did not understand well… So much for the facts and I think there is no need to comment.



Featured image:  “Chile limits the center of injustice”, sang Violeta Parra. Photo: AFP.

Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.


Iroel Sanchez
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Ingeniero, editor y periodista cubano. Director del programa de televisión La pupila asombrada. En Internet: La pupila insomne, pasando por EcuRed...

Iroel Sanchez

Ingeniero, editor y periodista cubano. Director del programa de televisión La pupila asombrada. En Internet: La pupila insomne, pasando por EcuRed...