HAVANA, June 30 (UPI) -- Cuba's legal system has created a climate of fear among journalists, dissidents and activists, Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday.
The report, "Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Cuba," highlights provisions in Cuba's legal system and government practices that restrict information given to media and have been used to detain and prosecute government critics, the human-rights organization said in a release.
"The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak out against the government," Kerrie Howard, deputy director for the Americas at Amnesty International, said in the release. "There is an urgent need for reform to make all human rights a reality for all Cubans."
The Cuban government has a virtual lock on media while demanding all journalists join the national journalists' association, controlled by the Communist Party, AI said. Cuban authorities also restrict access to blogs that are openly critical of the government and places restrictions on fundamental freedoms.
Amnesty International also said the Cuban Constitution and its penal code run roughshod over individual rights and freedoms, creating a climate of fear.
Cuban authorities have denied political prisoners exist in the country, but Amnesty International said it knew of at least 53 prisoners of conscience who are jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Amnesty International calls on the Cuban government to revoke or amend legal provisions unlawfully limiting freedom of expression, stop harassment of dissidents, free all prisoners of conscience, and allow the free flow of ideas and information through the Internet and other media.
"The release of all prisoners of conscience and the end of harassment of dissidents are measures that the Cuban government must take immediately and unconditionally," Howard said. "However, to honor its commitment to human rights, Cuba must also dismantle the repressive machinery built up over decades, and implement the reforms needed to make human rights a reality for all Cubans."