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A blogging revolution

Blogging flourishes in Cuba as a new generation writes critically about social and economic issues, leaving behind a generation of leaders over 70 who do not fully understand the phenomenon, says a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The report, "Chronicling Cuba, bloggers offer fresh hope," sees blogging in Cuba as a new space for independent ideas where citizens write about food shortages, health care, education, housing problems and lack of Internet access; issues that are not covered in the politically sanctioned press. Although the blogs are not being used to mobilise people to take political action, they are commenting on the economy and making global connections, which could provoke the regime, says the report.

Laritza Diversent told CPJ that official newspapers ignored her needs and misrepresented her reality. The 28-year-old Havana lawyer started a blog, where she says she can reflect people's frustrations, joys and aspirations.

"It belongs to thousands of young people who are trying to express many things, who want alternatives, who dream of a future," Diversent said. "Even if we feel scared, it is an opportunity to say what we think."

The report found that at least 25 independent, journalistic, and regularly updated blogs are being produced by Cuban writers. As many as 75 other independent blogs focus on personal and family interests. In addition, close to 200 officially approved blogs are produced by government journalists, according to the website of the official Cuban Journalists Union.

However, most Cubans have been barred from purchasing computers and private Internet access is restricted by law. Bloggers can go online at government-owned Internet cafés, universities, diplomatic venues and hotels but connections are extremely slow and costly. The government also closely monitors independent blogs and hacks into them, taking them down for several days.

But there hasn't been a total crackdown on bloggers, compared to the numerous journalists who have been harassed, intimidated and jailed for their work, says the report. Some believe transparency is the best way to avoid surveillance and persecution: "By signing your name, giving your opinions out loud and not hiding anything, we disarm their efforts to watch us," Yoani Sánchez wrote on her blog.

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