We Are Bigger and We Have Rights

Dariela Aquique 

Reading Granma newspaper. Photo: Caridad

Journalist Anneris Ivette Leyva has written a sharp and opportune commentary titled El derecho a la información (The Right to Information), which was published in the Granma newspaper.

Her lead line read:  “Providing systematic, truthful and diverse information that allows an approach to reality from all the complex angles that can be offered doesn’t constitute a favor, but a right of the people.” 

I admit that the first thing I found admirable was the very fact of being able to read something like this – particularly in Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba.

This makes me think that we’re either truly taking steps toward greater civic rights or the opposite (which would be regrettable): that we’re seeing no more than another farcical approach to control.  The latter would pose a situation where in all appearances the government is opening up to free expression, but in reality is doing nothing else than selling the image to the online press that “Now we’re not treating information so hermetically.”

With all due respect for those who blindly believe, I am — to the contrary — maintaining a healthy share of skepticism.  Some friends and I talked about this issue and the unanimous opinion was one of mistrust.  Clearly this wasn’t owing to the words of the writer, but to those who allowed her to publish them in that paper.

As this is a publication that for so many years has flirted with silence, censorship and taboos regarding the truth, it struck me as strange that all of a sudden this new license was being granted.

Leyva centers her comments on the many obstacles that she finds in the media here in Cuba by saying, “Information is not private property.  But it turns out that in the daily collection of news, countless illogical obstacles are erected against reporting on areas of life that have nothing to do with state secrets, which obviously require different treatment.”   

She then points to a statement by Raul Castro made before the National Assemble at the end of last year in which he said, “It’s necessary to put all information on the table as well as the arguments behind each decision and step so as to eliminate the excessive secretismo that we’ve grown accustomed to over 50 years of the enemy’s siege.”

It’s curious that she cites this fragment of his December 2011 speech in which a call was made to put an end to so many obstacles but that after half a year we still can’t see any real progress in the actions of the authorities.

The article doesn’t dig deeply into that issue.  It’s limited to a question that concerns only those involved in the media and the national news.  I respect her intention, and this isn’t my job, but I would have gone deeper.

Nevertheless, there is a point in her commentary where she approached an issue that is objectively sensitive:  “Beyond the dissatisfaction that it causes, the obstruction of channels of access to information violates the democratic principles advocated by our system of law established in the Constitution of the Republic.  Likewise this contradicts the political will of our party, which underlined the importance of this issue in its governing documents.  In its first congress in 1975 it held up the idea that: Within socialism, a superior form of democracy, information constitutes a right of the working people.” 

All this verbiage is so strange, so alien and removed from the true situation here in the country where it’s known that the right to information it’s almost nil – a fact easily demonstrated by insufficient access to the Internet by the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people.  Only to certain sectors or individuals in certain prescribed professions or social categories are allowed access to the net, something so commonplace in any part of the world.  If you’ll forgive the repetition, for most of the common citizens in our nation it is a luxury provided to only a few.

Certain websites are prohibited; they’re blocked so they cannot be visited.  The excuse used is that the media- campaign of the enemies of the revolution can infect the public mind.

If for more than a half century we have been building a society with a political, economic and social system that we believe is fair and correct, why fear making comparisons?  Why doubt the capacity for discernment by a revolutionary people?  Why silence certain issues?

This shows the insecurity and centralization of those who determine what’s good or not good people.  We live in times in which communications and information are indispensable.  E-mail in Cuba is anchored to dial up connections and is an opportunity that is only given to a minority of people by their workplaces, though many of these individuals are now subject to the cancellation of that privilege after having been warned that they’ve maintained contact with “forbidden websites or people.”

Clearly this contradicts the previously mentioned statement that: “Within socialism, a superior form of democracy, information constitutes a right of the working people.”

That shows my prejudice in relation to this issue.  Though the journalist didn’t explore these delicate areas, her point of departure was valuable; still, it would be great to go further, to demand the right to be informed.  It doesn’t matter what the sources are.  The truth is always legible.

It makes no sense that only through non-official websites are we able to follow a court case in the US involving a prominent Cuban artist.  Why can’t the same or greater importance be given to the case of artist Augustin Bejarano  as that of the “Cuban Five”?  Similarly, the details of what happened to another artist here in Cuba, Pedro Pablo Oliva, only circulate over the Internet.

Couldn’t it be that for many citizens this news is as or more important than the outcome of the annual coffee harvest or President Chavez’s state of health?

We are a well-educated and perceptive people, not little kids whose parents have to tell them: “This is something you can’t understand yet.  Wait until you get bigger.”

We are bigger, and we have rights.


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

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