HAVANA TIMES — As we know, obtaining reliable information in Cuba is a problem because the media – all of them controlled by the government, only report what they want to and do so in accordance with their interests. That is why some incidents are given broad coverage, others very little and, of course, some none at all.
The world is still shaken by the abhorrent terrorist acts perpetrated by Islamic extremists in Paris, which cost 12 people their lives at the offices of the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo. The international media spoke of nothing else for several days, but the incident was given very little coverage in Cuba.
Almost immediately after the tragedy, many world leaders – even Arab ones – publicly condemned the action. The Cuban government, however, took its time to issue a communiqué condemning the attack and offering its condolences to the French State, press and people.
It isn’t hard to understand why Cuban government circles do not share the opinions of the world in certain circumstances and limit themselves to mentioning only some of the facts, instead of analyzing all of them in depth.
To write a journalistic report on the incident, they would have to explicitly mention the religious motivation behind it (to touch on fundamentalism and its assault on freedom of expression and democracy). As we all know, the latter is a subject the Cuban government has yet to pass.
The political leaders who condemned the attack emphasized the need to defend these rights. What could the press say here? Condemn a Muslim who believes they can kill in the name of Allah, because their idol has been mocked, and leave it at that?
It wouldn’t be too ethical to reprimand them when, a few days ago, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera was arrested after being accused of “resisting arrest and inciting disorderly conduct,” merely for organizing a performance where citizens could express their opinions in front of a microphone set up at Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución.
This was yet another of the many such indicents that are common on the island. The detention and even beating of peaceful civil society members and activists who exercise their right to free speech by Cuban authorities is something very common.
The worst part is that only those involved, the few eye-witnesses who were there (and those who are able to read the news in non-Cuban Internet sites) found out about this. Here, the newspapers keep mum, or “prioritize” other news.
As the Bruguera incident unfolded, the Cuban press reported on a gathering that activists from the US and other countries organized in New York to celebrate the release of the Cuban 5.
Since Wednesday, the most important news out there has been the Charlie Hebdo incident. In Cuba, however, we were shown photos of Gema, the new-born daughter of Adriana and Gerardo (one of the Cuban 5 who recently returned to Cuba). They are considering creating a workshop for children in Ciengfuegos as they put together the typical gift basket for the baby.
All of this reminds me of Brainstorm, the short by Cuban filmmaker Eduardo del Llano, in which the editorial staff of a country’s most important newspaper await instructions from above to put together the front page. All the while, they make bets and debate as to whether the most important news item was an international sporting record set by a Cuban athlete, a meteorite impact that cost human lives, the rescue of the survivors by a fortuitous hero (a dwarf, incidentally), the death of a renowned visual artist, or a power cut that affected one fourth of the Cuban capital.
Ultimately, the instruction from above was that the most important news item was the fact the capital’s port workers had won a national productivity competition. All the while, an alien attack was devastating Havana.