“We vigorously denounce the disappearance of these spaces for the expression of ideas as an act of mass censorship of journalists, editors and the media."
The social media giant Twitter suspended the accounts of Cuba’s largest media outlets and their journalists on Wednesday, along with the official account of the Communist Party of Cuba, the country’s Ministry of Communication and several senior figures in Cuban public life.
The country’s main media outlets that have been handed suspensions include Granma (167 000 followers) and Cubadebate (nearly 300 000 followers), as well as Mesa Redonda Cuba, Radio Rebelde, Dominio Cuba and Canal Caribe.
Also blocked are Rosa Miriam Elizalde, head of Cuba’s journalists union, as well as Granma journalist Enrique Moreno Gimeranez and a number of Cuban government officials. Twitter has not given any explanation thus far as to why they have taken these measures.
The suspensions took place on Wednesday evening, at around the same time that President Miguel Diaz-Canel began an important public announcement on the Mesa Redonda TV show, addressing the problems of diesel supplies that have followed the U.S. blockade on Venezuela, which has limited Venezuela’s ability to export oil.
Cuba’s journalist union UPEC condemned the suspensions in an official statement, saying, “we vigorously denounce the disappearance of these spaces for the expression of ideas as an act of mass censorship of journalists, editors and the media. We demand the immediate restoration of the blocked accounts. They have not violated Twitter’s policies in any way. Meanwhile, the platform has flagrantly trampled on the rights of communicators.
UPEC also suggests that the "Cuba Internet Task Force" may be behind the move. The force is run by the U.S. government’s State Department, and is an operation to spread the message of the U.S. government to Cuba using the internet. In June, they submitted a report of recommendations about how social media platforms can be used to communicate the State Department’s message to the Cuban population.
There are concerns that Twitter is banning those critical of U.S. foreign policy. In August, Twitter banned almost 1,000 Chinese individual user accounts who had made comments critical of protesters in Hong Kong. It followed an announcement by Twitter that they will remove "state media" accounts, but not "public media", and that they will be working with the CIA-linked "Freedom House" group to determine which accounts can be defined as ‘state’ and which are ‘public’.