Date:                   August 18, 2021


CSW condemns a new law published by the Cuban government on Aug. 17 which places further restrictions on freedom of expression online. The new Legal Decree 35, published and presented as a "cybersecurity" law, criminalizes any online criticism of the government as well as incitement to "public disturbances" which is the term the government has used to describe the peaceful protest marches that took place across the island on July 11.
Under Legal Decree 35 which was drafted in April and published Aug. 17, the dissemination of "content that violates the constitutional, social and economic precepts of the State, that incites mobilizations or other acts that affect public order; that spreads messages that justify violence, accidents of any kind that affect the privacy and dignity of people" will now be considered cyberterrorism. 
The July 11 protests spread across the island after images of a protest march in the town of San Antonio de los Baños were shared widely on social media. Despite a harsh government crackdown, including the arbitrary detention of over 800 people across the island, many Cubans have continued to openly criticise the government and make calls for change via their social media accounts. This includes public statements from a number of Catholic and Protestant religious associations who have condemned the Cuban president’s order to respond to the peaceful protests with violence and have called for the release of all of those detained. 
Hundreds of Cubans remain in detention, including Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, who has been transferred to the Boniato Maximum Security Prison in Santiago de Cuba while he awaits trial on charges of "disrespect, public disorder and attacks." Two other church leaders, Pastors Yarian Sierra Madrigal and Yéremi Blanco Ramírez, were released into house arrest after spending two weeks detained incommunicado, pending their trials. 
CSW’s Head of Advocacy, Anna-Lee Stangl said, “Legal Decree 35 makes it clear that as far as the Cuban Communist Party is concerned, there is no space for any kind of dissent on the island. Cubans will be unable to comment honestly on the reality of their lives without fear of being charged with cyberterrorism; this includes religious associations and leaders who speak out on issues that affect freedom of religion or belief as well as wider issues facing Cuban society. We call on the international community to make it clear to the Cuban government that restrictions on freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights are unacceptable, and to closely monitor the implementation of this law in order to support Cubans who are targeted under it and similar laws.”