Cuban Journalists Agree Ethics Code

Press freedom group meets despite security service objections.

A code of ethics for Cuban journalists developed with IWPR’s help was approved by a media freedom group at an event in Havana last week.

The Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP) held the meeting on January 25 despite attempts by the Cuban security service to prevent it going ahead. Officers visited the homes of several participating journalists to warn them off.

The authorities were clearly keen to avoid talk of press freedom as regional leaders gathered in Havana for a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States on January 27-28.

Around 15 people – most of them contributors to independent media outlets like Cubanet, Diario de Cuba, Primavera en Cuba and Cubaprensalibre.com – gathered at the home of dissident journalist Augusto César San Martín in Centro Habana.

The meeting coincided with the eighth anniversary of APLP, which was founded in response to the “Black Spring” of 2003 in which 75 dissidents including 26 journalists were jailed. APLP never won official recognition from the Cuban justice ministry.

Journalists Odelín Alfonso Torna and Juan Carlos Linares introduced the Code of Ethics for Cuban Journalists, a guide for media workers who want to follow international standards of journalism and promote freedom of expression. (Here in Spanish: Código de Ética para Periodistas Cubanos .)

The 20-point code was developed with assistance from IWPR by two lawyers from the Cubalex legal centre, Laritza Diversent and Yaremis Flores, with input from journalists and from the independent news agencies Hablemos Press and Jagua Press.

Reporter Jorge Amado from Santiago de Cuba said it “fulfills international standards, it covers protecting sources, backing up information with specific facts and reliable sourcing, respect for intellectual property, and other things”.

María Matienzo, who reports for Diario de Cuba, said it was important to consider “how journalists will put it into practice; how it can be applied rather than remaining just a piece of paper”.

Linares said the code was not a law, just a guide “establishing behaviour and standards” for the profession.

Alfonso Torna said the next step was for APLP to familiarise journalists outside Havana with the principles set out in the document.

“We want to travel out to the centre and east of the country to continue discussing this code of ethics,” he said.

Laura Paz is an independent journalist in Cuba.