I received an e-mail from a friend with an interesting article titled “On the Press in Cuba” (Sobre la prensa en Cuba), by journalist Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera; it was taken from Espacio laical, a publication of the Archdiocese of Havana.
I immediately felt that it merited me writing a post so that I could share some of the issues discussed in that article. I copied certain passages where the author came up with especially valid analyses and opinions. For example:
“If you were to scan through a full bibliography, you would begin to discover that the rules that established the parameters of socialist journalism were the ones Lenin established in various articles. If one looks at the years when those were written, they will find the dates of these articles by Lenin were in 1910 or 1911. (…) What happened is that those became the standards that Stalin, the great master of de-contextualization, selected to control the press once socialism was in power.”
Here this journalist tells us (already well known) that the Cuban press has been governed by and, sadly, continues to follow obsolete canons inherited from the sectarian Leninist-Stalinist ideology. As a corollary, he adds that this has limited the real possibilities for journalism in Cuba, leaving it without the option of developing in originality or craft. Secrecy, a fundamental characteristic of our press, for more than a half century has been the pillar upon which the national media has rested.
Rodriguez discusses this, saying:
“Secrecy” creates an unwritten law by which the news does not exist until the appropriate body authorizes its existence, if it thinks the existence of that news is in keeping with the country’s politics or what the censor thinks are in the interests of the nation. By the time information is published, everyone has known about it for a long time, because in today’s world — with the Internet and e-mail — while it’s easy to propagate lies, it’s almost impossible to hide the truth.”
Later, with his superb deductive logic, Rodriguez refers to how all of the media always respond to the interests of those who own it (in the case of capitalism), or to those who have the power to dictate the rules of what, how and when to speak (in the case of “socialism”).
We know full well that our media respond absolutely to an officialist approach that doesn’t allow for statements of opinion (not even conservative ones) concerning the prevailing policy. This is also done in the capitalist world, but with less strict control. In fact, there can exist approaches to the same incident or event that are diametrically opposed.
According to the journalist:
“There is almost no press in the world that is not visibly manipulated and controlled and does not respond to certain interests that are not necessarily those of legitimate information. The press in the capitalist world is a private press and responds to the interests of its owners or to those with which its owners are allied.
“The socialist press has been directed by a single party that has fused with the specific interests of the acting government agencies or, more accurately, with the people who govern these agencies. Although this is not spelled out in any formal program, most alliances are not between institutions but between the officials who run them, who interact with and protect each other.”
There are many varied issues addressed by this writer in his article. Stopping at each one would force me to copy the entire piece, which is not my intention; rather, I only wanted to point out certain masterfully written selections that are the results of sincere and thorough observations.
One of its sections discusses a painful incident, the outcome of the inability of our authorities to listen and accept criticism:
“Only a few months ago, Dr. Esteban Morales, an eminent political scientist and a person with a proven revolutionary track record, wrote an article assessing the negative influence of corruption in the country and explaining how this can be more harmful to the revolution than the activities of internal dissent. He referenced similar cases in many of the former socialist countries, where corrupt socialists were essential to the restoration of capitalism.
“The party committee in his municipality then discharged the most severe penalty against Morales: he was no less than stripped of his membership in the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), an act considered scandalous and outrageous by many people. He appealed to the appropriate bodies and was finally absolved of any wrongdoing and was re-admitted into the party. It was a beautiful and necessary victory.
“Notwithstanding, the website where he published his opinion has never been the same. It has been charged with a sense of apprehension that’s one step away from outright fear, and we know that the distance between apprehension and fear is the same as that between the sublime and the ridiculous. In this sense, the punishment succeeded.”
I invite everyone to read the entire piece. In it will be found many things that are known by heart. More than once you will find yourself nodding in agreement, while in others (like the paragraph just read), you will experience anger.
If at this stage of the game we are still suffering from such ills, what hope is there for the good health of our press? Only the option of blogs can be safe from infection, at least until we become a thorn in the side of the officialdom. It is a sad fate for journalists who try to make our press “substantive and free” — as it is so often proclaimed to be — though they know that this is nothing more than a utopian dream.