Isbel Diaz Torres

There’s good press and bad press, but also the old press...for various uses. A sales stand at the Tulipan Farmers Market in Havana. Photo: Isbel Diaz Torres

Looking a little more closely at Granma newspaper, I discovered that in reality we don’t know who’s writing to us every day. Many of the articles go unsigned.

The first thing I should clarify for those living outside the island is that Granma is the official daily of with the largest circulation in the country. It’s distributed all across the island after a single edition comes out around 1:00 in the morning.

By the way, it’s not “the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC),” as one often hears, but the newspaper of the party’s Central Committee. Thus the paper itself is an example of the high degree of centralized control that our society suffers.

It’s not a bad thing that the PCC’s Central Committee has a newspaper, the problem is that they claim it to be the sole holder of truth. To make matters worse, the two other national publications, Juventud Rebelde and Trabajadores, have historically reproduced (sometimes verbatim) the words of “Daddy Granma.”

It should be recognized, though, that those two publications were highlighted recently for their diversity and freshness, with inquisitive, updated and risk-taking materials for which people are always thankful.

I have friends working at each of the three newspapers, people who I respect for their deep commitment and devotion to their human, professional and patriotic values. The same applies to the professors in the faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana where many future journalists graduate.

But this knowledge of the high quality of many of the professionals in Cuban journalism places me in an obviously conflicting position when having to deal every day with the lack of important news or any diversity of opinion reflected in their periodicals.

To make up for these shortcomings, efforts are sometimes made by including countless international items taken from the Internet. But wouldn’t it be better to ensure access to the Internet so that people could read these for themselves online? That would leave room for the many issues at home that remain to be dealt with every day under the bylines of our journalists.

As I said earlier, I noticed that a number of news articles are not signed in Granma, without counting the sheer volume of materials that are taken from international press agencies (which on some days are “reliable sources” and other times are “allies of the empire,” depending on what the article says).

For example the Wednesday (November 2) edition of Granma had seven unsigned articles:
1. Canada joins the US in retaliation against UNESCO for recognizing Palestine
2. Raul receives the King of Lesotho
3. The world midweek
4. Prominent communist Argentinian leader Fanny Edelman dead
5. Cuba and India: A historical relationship withstanding the test of time
6. Israel freezes funds for the PA, accelerates construction in occupied territories
7. Charangon de Reve tours the cities of Guantanamo and Santiago

Who wrote all this? Does it involve the technical issue of a lack of space for their signatures? Are the articles taken from the Internet and then rewritten for the Cuban public? Are those articles by the same authors in the same issue? Do they represent the voice of the Central Committee?

It’s hard to believe that the Central Committee convened to draft a story about the tour of the Charangon de Reve in the eastern part of the island, with all due respect for the high quality of that popular Cuban musical group.

Finally, it occurred to me that one big problem of our press — among many others — may also be that the authors don’t have their own styles; there are no personalities. Sometimes you can read the whole paper and it seems like it was written by a single person, such is the level of “equilibrium” in the language.

The funniest thing is reading “Letters from the Readers,” which are published once a week. In this section the “people’s letters” are reproduced in the same dry official style as the newspaper reports, which contrast comically with the complaints and criticisms, often discussing heartfelt and highly emotional concerns.

Incidentally, in the section titled “Letters to the Editor,” those letters themselves are signed, but this time only with the initial of the person’s first name and their full last name. In the Havana phone book alone, there are 500 households listed under the surname “Garcia.” So does a letter signed by “A. Garcia,” for example, give us any information?

This common practice of anonymity in the press is suspect at best. One cannot criticize or make demands on anyone in specific when the information taken from them isn’t signed, in the end it could turn out that their grievance wasn’t true or, in the best case, they didn’t express important nuances to fully understand the situation being discussed.

However this is of course very useful when you want to manipulate information in a certain way, or when you don’t want people to really know what’s being said.

The criticisms made by Raul Casto during the last congress of the PCC have generated some movement within the press, but it still can’t be assumed that anything will come of it. Perhaps one decision from above isn’t enough, as was suggested by Alfredo Guevara at a recent conference.

Apparently the dual position of president/party secretary — who on the one hand recognizes the weaknesses of the press and other hand threatens to be ruthless with those journalists who make mistakes — can be confusing to the editors of newspapers. To me at least it’s not completely clear how a journalist can make a mistake.

Is it that there are some things that can be criticized and others that can’t? Or is it that the little phrase “don’t give the enemy any ammunition” still valid?

Anyway, it’s apparent that change in the press will be a gradual process and not resolved in a single blow – if at all. For now, they could start by having their articles signed and at least gain a little credibility.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

7 thoughts on “Who Writes for Cuba’s Granma Newspaper?

  • “It’s not a bad thing that the PCC’s Central Committee has a newspaper, the problem is that they claim it to be the sole holder of truth.”

    Only they don’t, in reality. The author is unable to distinguish truth from his own hostile fantasy.

  • I know of one Writer that works for Granma, His name is Jean-Guy Allard. He is a French Canadian from Shawinigan, Canada who once wrote for The Journal de Montreal. He retired to Cuba several years ago and now contributes to the Granma newspaper.

    wikipedia link.
    An odd pairing one might say, but not really in the sense that many people who Live in Quebec (a province in Canada that includes the City of Montreal) have always had intense Socialist leanings.

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