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Activist and Blogger Yoani Sánchez arrested

On October 4, the prominent Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez was arrested alongside her husband Reinaldo Escobar in Baymo, Cuba, while they were on their way to attend the public trial of Angel Carromera, who is facing charges of killing a prominent member of the opposition Oswaldo Paya. Police agents pulled her car over and detained her without a warrant, allegedly on account of planning a “provocation”. In the week prior, Sánchez was denied a travel visa that would allow her to leave the country and she has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Sanchez’s arrest is yet another instance of how the Cuban government has been suppressing press freedom in recent months. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a statement denouncing the actions of the Cuban government.

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Media Freedom Attacked with New Law

A bill called the “Argentine Audiovisual Communication Services Law” that is set to come into law could lead to the break up of one of the nations largest media networks, Grupo Clarín. The network has released a number of publications accusing President Cristina Fernandez and her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, as well as numerous other government officials, of illegal enrichment and abuse of power. The bill was passed earlier this year and will take effect on December 7. The Kirchner government said that the bill will limit the number of media stations a company can own and therefore make communications technology cheaper and more democratic. Many members of the press are, however, calling this a threat against press freedom and independence. The attacks against Grupo Clarín by the Kirchner government have been documented for a number of years, with the slogan “Clarín Lies” being used by members of her campaign since 2007.

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Bill 510 Passes with Partial Veto by President

On October 8, the Panama National Assembly finalized the passage of a controversial copyright law, called Bill 510 or Proyecto 510-2012 “On Copyright and Related Rights”. The law was passed by the Panama Congress in late September, and was awaiting approval by the nation’s executive branch. President Martinelli has vetoed part of the bill that would allow heavy fines on those accused of copyright infringement and his change has reduced the maximum fine from 100,000 USD to 20,000 USD. However, many of its controversial elements have been passed. First, once a person is accused of violating the copyright law, they would have 15 days in which to prove their innocence to the courts. Second, the money collected from the fines will go to the General Copyright Directorate of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MICI), not to the creators of the copyrighted content. Third, the bill essentially gives the government the power to monitor and report all torrent activity in the country. Many activists and bloggers have come out against the bill in the past month, most notably TechnoLama and Chris Faw, who has written a lengthy criticism of the bill.

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Newspapers Report Small Change in Traffic Since Google Boycott

Major Brazilian newspapers who have been boycotting Google’s news aggregator have recently reported that they have only seen a five per cent drop in traffic since the launch of the protest. The boycott began early this year when the National Association of Newspapers in Brazil recommended that its member newspapers opt-out of having their articles displayed in the Google News feed, as they were not being compensated for providing content. Previously, Google News readers could access content on the news feed without actually visiting the website that was the original source of the content. Now, major news sources involved in the boycott, such as O Estado de Sao Paulo, simply do not appear on the Google aggregator.

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Study Will Examine Use of ICT in Agriculture

On October 12, the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) kicked off with the announcement of a new project that would involve using ICT to boost agricultural efforts in the country. With the support of the Technical Centre of Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA), the initiative will examine how to strengthen pathways of communication in order to integrate ICT into existing agricultural value chains and to improve efficiency and boost production. The rise in the use of new technologies in the country, such as mobile applications, bodes well for the project. The study will take place in a five countries: Trinidad, Belize, Jamaica, Barbados and St. Kitts.

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Netizens React to Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy has drastically affected the Caribbean region and efforts are still underway to repair the damage caused by the storm.  Bloggers from Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti,  Bahamas, and many others were posting updates from their homes as the storm hit. Twitter was also a popular tool used for posting updates and images of the destruction. Caribbean ICT companies also put out special efforts to maintain lines of communication during the storm. Jamaican company Digicel created a free service in which people could receive storm updates by text message, while in the Bahamas, many companies raced to restore Internet and phone service across large areas what had been disrupted by strong winds and rains.  Repairing the damage in the wake of the storm will be a huge undertaking, and bloggers have already begun to weigh in on strategies to rebuild the region.

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