Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blogger sends uncensored news to Cuban cell phones,

Posted on Wednesday, 08.24.11

Blogger sends uncensored news to Cuban cell phones

A Spanish blogger said the Cuban government cannot block or censor texts
he's sending to cell phones on the island.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Borrowing a page from those pesky marketing cell phone text messages
that cannot be blocked, a Cuban blogger in Spain is sending uncensored
news to about 1,000 Cuban cell phones daily — and exploring far more
sharp-edged applications.

Eventually, said Ernesto Hernandez Busto, he should be able to send SMS
messages to special groups: If dissidents are being jailed in Santiago
province, he could text "Stop the repression" to all cell phones used
there by the Ministry of Interior.

Cuban authorities cannot block the messages from the Cuba Sin Censura
system, or Cuba Without Censorship, because each one is sent from a
different telephone number, Hernandez told El Nuevo Herald.

The system is the latest evidence of how new technology, such as cell
phones and the Internet, is helping to increase the flow of information
into and out of Cuba, despite the government monopoly on the mass media
and telecommunications.

"Anything that contributes to information is an excellent initiative,"
said Havana blogger Reinaldo Escobar, who has been receiving the SMS
messages. As for the claim that the government cannot block them, he
added "That's to be seen."

Hernandez said the system takes advantage of Cuba's explosive growth in
cell phones — from only 198,000 in 2007 to one million at the end of
last year — and avoids reliance on the Internet, tightly controlled by
the government, expensive and slow.

"I always thought that bloggers and the Internet were a little
overestimated" in their usefulness for breaking the government's
monopoly on information, said Hernandez, who runs the blog Penultimos
Dias — Penultimate Days — from his home in Barcelona.

Hernandez was part of an effort in 2009 to send five to six SMS
headlines a day through a system called Granpa – a joke on Granma, the
official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. The effort petered
off because they were sent from a few telephone numbers that could be
easily blocked by Cuba, he said.

But the new effort is based on computerized marketing SMS facilities
that change the originating telephone numbers, cost very little to the
senders and nothing to the receivers in Cuba, he added in a telephone
interview Monday.

In another use of new technology, Cuban dissidents now regularly call a
U.S. telephone number to record complaints of government abuses. The Web
site Hablalo Sin Miedo — Say it Without Fear — then emails alerts to
human rights activists outside Cuba.

A Cuban-born Florida International University graduate got the idea from
the system that Google set up this spring after the Egyptian government
shut down its connections with the Internet in an attempt to cut off
information to and from protesters.

Each day for the past month, Hernandez has sent one or two SMS messages
with a total of five to six headlines on developments in Cuba and abroad
that have been censored or manipulated by the government news media.

The official media, for example, has regularly condemned NATO's support
for the Libyan rebels and reported almost nothing on the Syrian
government's bloody crackdown on opposition protesters.

Hernandez's text messages now go to about 1,000 Cuban cell phones,
including about 800 in Havana, most of them owned by bloggers,
dissidents and other activists, he said. Cubans can sign up to receive
them at One problem: There's no way for now to

But Hernandez and other computer-savvy exiles have managed to obtain
several lists of sensitive Cuban phone numbers — for police and military
units, for example – from the state-owned phone company, the Empresa de
Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.

"The potential of this system is that it can send a message to any
specific group of people," Hernandez said. "For example, if they are
repressing in one province, if there is a popular uprising."

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