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April 14, 2009

Technology is not Freedom

I respect President Obama's good intentions in trying to influence Cuba for the better. However, I argue that the implementation of his good intentions is ultimately harmful.

One of his policy changes is allowing American companies to build television stations and cellphone towers in Cuba. At first, this sounded like a good idea to me. With more modern communication, people would be more free to communicate ideas, even those ideas which the Communist regime did not like, and so the people of Cuba would gain slightly more freedom - in fact, perhaps it could actually lead to freedom for the nation.

Then I realized the problem. There is no freedom of speech or of the press in Cuba. Courageous reporting and people standing up for their rights does not just happen. People have to stand upon their convictions, and then defend their convictions so that they are not jailed or killed. There are brave journalists in Cuba, to be sure, but sadly many if not all have been jailed by Castro because of their journalism. They were jailed for doing what we hope more journalists will do once we build the television stations and cellphone towers. As a result, there are few to no journalists left, except for those who will use those television towers to spread propaganda and lies that suit the Communist regime.

Cellphones can be a tool for communication and organization. However, even cellphones can be tapped. If the Communist regime were to tap into the cellphones of people and organizations to spy on their private conversations and foil their plans, then the cellphones will not end up doing much good to the Cuban people. It'll be a convenience - one where you have to carefully weigh each word you say, just as much as you probably do in everyday life in Cuba.

Before the technology to communicate can do any good to a nation, that nation must have the freedom to communicate.

So what should we do to give the Cubans the freedom to communicate? Perhaps we should demand more loudly for the release of the brave, imprisoned Cuban journalists. After all, they've already proven that they're willing to do the bold reporting that is needed in Cuba. Even if they are not released, we will have proven that we are paying attention to the repression of the Cuban regime, and that we are not so confused that we mistake technological telecommunications capability for freedom of speech and of the press.

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