Denied access by denying exit visa

For American’s the idea of needing to get permission to leave the country is alien. I mean really really alien.

For those of us who travel out of the country on a regular basis, think about the process:

  1. Get passport
  2. Get airline ticket
  3. Check in at ticket counter
  4. Hand passport to ticket agent as ID
  5. Pass through security
  6. Get on plane

In just about every other democracy you usually have to add an additional step between #5 and #6: Pass through immigration control. In other words, you have to get an exit stamp in your passport.

Now think about the non-democracies.

Cuba, for example.

There is a major step right at the beginning.

Blogger and free speech advocate, Yoani Sánchez, is being honored by a number of groups this year, including the International Press Institute.

Unfortunately for Yoani, she cannot attend because her very first step is to get permission to leave the country. And, once again, she was denied the right to travel.

Take a look at Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 13.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

And yes, Cuba is a signatory country.

I can understand governments keeping people out. (I don’t agree with it but I do understand that each national government has the legitimate power to control who comes in.)

But to restrict access to the outside world?

Restriction of access to the outside world is wrong. Whether it is the denial of an exit visa or denial of access to an uncensored Internet.

Unfortunately there are other ways of limiting information that do not involve censorship or government action.

Too many American news organizations do not see the importance of reporting international events. They do not see the important links between global and local events/personalities. The end result are readers and viewers who do not understand the world around us.

Local reporters and editors need to understand that the United States is not an island cut off from the rest of the world. The fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants should be enough of an explanation as to why keeping an eye on the rest of the world is important.

Unfortunately too many of the new immigrants “don’t look like us” or our immigrant families. (Yep, I’m talking about the failure of a lot of white folks to understand the immigration issue.)

Immigrants come to the United States for a number of reasons: economic, political, social. But whatever the reason they come here. And yet consumers of American news read/hear little about what is happening on other shores that could affect that immigration flow.

Think about why there are only and estimated 690,000 Brazilians in the United States versus a couple of million Central Americans.

The border access issue is only a small difference. There are real political, social and economic reasons why there are more Central Americans than Brazilians in the United States.

But not that anyone would know about these differences reading most newspapers or hearing most broadcast news reports.

But back to Yoani…

She is a brave woman speaking out for freedom of press, speech and expression. Her experiences have taught her there is a larger world out there that affects her life. And all this despite a repressive government and controlled media.

It would be nice if the Americans could also learn more about the world from their free media.


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Filed under Censorship, Connections, Cuba, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

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