The Impunity of Cuba’s Media

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES — In a country where news programs offer very little space for true public opinion and silence the discourse of the political opposition entirely, one can expect news to be completely skewed and for no one to feel the need to defend its coherence and significance.

The lack of journalistic professionalism is evident in the way the official news disguises a change in the country’s policies.

One of the causes of this phenomenon is the monopoly over Cuban television which the State maintains. Within it, official journalists answer to practically no ethical principles.

Some time ago, to mention one example, a vigorous campaign condemning the production of transgenic foods around the world was launched by the evening broadcasts of Cuba’s National Television News (NTV). These were the times when Fidel Castro had a more significant presence in Cuba’s political panorama, a fact which gave the campaign the touch of catastrophism that the leader always brought to his ecological militancy.

The verdict at the time was unequivocal: the legalization, production and sale of transgenic food products were part and parcel of the financial imperialism of agro-industrial transnational companies seeking to appropriate the agricultural heritage of the Third World.

Several NTV broadcasts showed statistics on the damages to people’s health, domestic economies and local production brought about by these genetically altered products. These same news programs announced the screening of documentaries that delved into the issue in depth and demonstrated the economic, political and ethical unsustainability of transgenic food production.

Some weeks ago, to the surprise of many, this same news program reported that transgenic crops would be introduced into Cuba – a 180-degree-turn which makes no mention of the campaign in which the program enumerated the disastrous consequences that a decision of this nature had on the food sovereignty of countries and the health of consumers.

The impunity with which journalists lie becomes even more evident when one knows, beforehand, that the “preliminary studies” referred to have been in the works for a very long time and have actually been denounced by eco-activists, who lost their jobs for revealing this State secret.

Everywhere, the media respond to the interests of their owners: the State, the market, international organizations, popular movements and others. Many a time – almost all the time – these interests define how the news is made.

In Cuba, however, the State media know no limit in their subservience to those who pay their bills. They are perhaps outdone only by North Korea’s totalitarian information system, to risk an analogy.

Cuba is stifled by an official discourse that says what it pleases, to the stupefaction of the people, degrading the national debate beyond the limits of imagination.

18 thoughts on “The Impunity of Cuba’s Media

  • I said nothing about single source in Cuba. Although in very many cases, that is the reality. Why can’t we fix ourselves AND help Cuba at the same time?

  • Cuba indeed has a variety of news sources that are not state run. It is untrue that any country in the history of the world could have existed without an outlet of its own, uncontrolled by the state. It is impossible to enforce such a regime. Yes, Internet is not as readily available, but the sources do exist, as they always have. Blogs are prevalent, Marti media from the US are prevalent, and people share information, to mention a few. Eleven million people is not that great of a population to make it impossible for the flow of information to happen.

    It is also offensive for Cubans to presume that people in Cuba are simply stupid for thinking that all they are served is true. They are no different from us, and your argument sounds like the old slavery-defense argument (I am sure it wasn’t intended, though)–they are incapable of discerning the truths themselves, so let us do it for them. If we wish any contact at all with anyone in the world, we need to primarily address everyone with respect.

    In the end, as far as I am concerned, it is their own system, and I really don’t care how they lead their own country. It doesn’t affect me in the least. However, what we live in the US affects me deeply, and I am seriously concerned with our own state of media freedoms. I do wish to see my country as great as it had been before all of the massive trade deals starting with China (look what we are buying! Is China buying any of our goods? Of course not), NAFTA, CAFTA, now TPP and TTIP. Thirty years ago China was a third world country, and now it’s a super power because of Nixon’s deal with it. How is that not disconcerting?

    We hear about the TPP and TTIP only by dissident voices, and not in the corporate media. We cannot even know legally what is in there! How is that Constitutional?

    Sorry for the long message. In effect what I am trying to say is the following–let us join forces and fix our system to be as good as it had been (at least job-wise) before the Nixon’s era of “free” trades. Let us call our Senators and House Representatives and tell them to stop exporting our jobs with the trade agreements as TPP and TTIP. Cuba can fend for itself. We need our human resource power for us to help ourselves.

  • You are my best evidence that your opinion is bullsh*t. By definition, you know what you don’t know because of the variety of media outlets that you have available to you in the US. If you lived in Cuba, you would childish believe you were well-informed. The truth is that even Cubans realize what mierda their media is. That’s why Grandma is more often toilet paper than news source. Another thing. …enough with the tired old argument that the US should first be perfect before offering advice to other countries. That’s a stupid thing to write. The US will always have problems. That’s why our founders said “in order to form a more perfect union”. All we have to be is better. And when it comes to Cuban media, we are much better.

  • I am not sure what news you read, but perhaps it would be informational to just Google journalist incarceration in the US. You’ll be horrified at our journalist expression freedoms. Start with Gery Webb, and then go to the names such as John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, Kristyna Wentz-Graff, Josh Fox, without even having to mention the most famous ones. Please check and then comment.

    What you imply is simply not the case. We certainly do incarcerate journalists for saying inconvenient truths.

  • Dear Mr. Rodriguez Perez, permit me to burst your bubble–we in the US also have very little freedom of journalist expression any longer. Pres. Clinton ended any such question with the deregulation and his Telecommunications Act of 1996. All of our major media sources are owned by corporations, and hence act solely in and for corporate interests. If you still think that corporations act in any way that would potentially threaten them (i.e. allow ethical free information flow), please check again.

    We had this freedom between 1934 and 1996, but that’s all gone now.

    Indeed our media is not state-run, but between corporate and state-run media, I am not at all sure which I would rather choose. I am most certainly not represented by the corporate media, as is no one other than corporate moguls.

    I sincerely wish you were right in your idealistic view upon US media, but I deeply regret to tell you that is not at all the case any longer.

  • It’s simply silly to claim that the US media in its entirety (FOX and MSNBS combined) will offer complete news. Please! Just look at what we are being told about the Fast Track and the TPP in any of our corporate media. Let me tell you–nothing! The biggest trade deal in the history of the world, the threat to our sovereignty, the further drive of our jobs overseas, and we are told NOTHING about it. So we offer advice to Cuba about their freedom in the news? Please! Let us clean our house first and let us demand to find out what is going on in our own house before we offer any advice to anyone else. It’s so easy to see others’ mistakes.

  • You are a joke. Your “forte” is the fatuous appeal to argument by authority and a gob smacking lack of self awareness.

  • I’ve actually seen some of JG’s comments on ZNet. …Let’s just say that even Noam Chomsky thinks he’s nuts, and that says a lot!

  • I will not take your word, nor anyone else’s. With regards to Cuba, I go to the source, and if possible, act as an eyewitness. You write “I maintain that, yes, it {ZNet} does tell far more of the truth than does 99% of the corporate media and does so the overwhelming majority of the time”. Really? How do you know this? By what objective testing methods do you come to this conclusion? Your ZNet is a wacko, extreme left-wing internet rag that publishes articles based on false facts to make their crazy arguments begin to make sense. Besides, according to your theories, we only have 15 more years of life as we know it. If I believed as you seem to believe, I would not be wasting my time with that knucklehead website.

  • Moses,
    As I have said, you should not take my word on this .
    Because media critique is one of my long-term (45 year) interests, I do possess depth and breadth of knowledge on how the media works and why it works the way it does.
    I maintain that ZNet is , at present, the best source I know for information on U.S. foreign policy , capitalism, imperialism and world affairs .
    I maintain that, yes, it does tell far more of the truth than does 99% of the corporate media and does so the overwhelming majority of the time .
    You could test this rather easily by comparing say the Venezuela story as it is presented by the corporate media- all the corporate media – and then as presented by ZNet.
    I do this as part of each of my days time permitting .
    You, in all probability and, as a number of studies have shown about those on the right, find yourself unable to read anything that logically and factually contradicts what you previously and erroneously believed .
    Do your homework for five years or so on this and THEN come tell me who is being naïve .

  • It is not a matter of bias.
    It is a matter if truth and historical fact.
    The left media -not liberal but left – such as ZNet can and does print material that is far more factual, far more scholarly, far more truthful that what you get from the corporate media.
    As I’ve pointed out before, my fortes are U.S. foreign policy and media criticism . I’ve been a student in and out of academia on these subjects for about 45 years.
    I know the media . I know how to recognize bullshit in a great variety of forms and I know how to find the truth-read a lot from both sides .
    Your problem is that, like most right wingers, you will only look at information sources that will confirm what you already believe . I’m not guessing at this. This trait of the right has been confirmed by a number of recent studies.
    For instance, close to an amazing 100% of people who get their news from Fox, do not look at ANY other source for their information.
    That is a big part of the reason you guys on the right are so easy to debate.

  • Does your massive cognitive dissonance every cause you to stop and reflect on what you write?

    While defending a country like Cuba where 100% of the media is state controlled, you criticize the far more open media environment of the US. While it is certainly true that all media sources, and all journalists, have their biases, the fact of the matter is, the alternative media sources you recommend, ZNet and Tom Dispatch, are both based in the US. Your hero, Noam Chomsky lives, works and publishes in the US.

    I am quite aware that the big TV networks like CNN are closely tied to the Democratic Party, while FoxNews pushes the Republican party line. Neither offer balanced, objective news content. On the same point, your recommended outlet, ZNet, offers their own very biased far left perspective.

    In addition to the many establishment mainstream media outlets, there are hundreds of independent, non-corporate media sources and thousands of independent journalists in the US. These journalists are free to publish what they want. I’m not aware of any US based journalist being beaten, arrested or tossed in jail for publishing or reporting on issues inconvenient to the government. All of which proves the opposite of what you think you are demonstrating.

  • Walter, indeed it is your comments and the views they reflect that are old and grossly inaccurate. You seem to hold on to the long-failed ideology of the left. Everywhere it has been tried it has produced poverty, mediocrity and repression. Likewise, your strategy of discrediting those who oppose your views as opposed to arguing on the facts is a tired and boring Castro tactic. You might as well call us “gusanos” and be done with it. You always claim to wish to engage in positive and constructive dialogue but you never take the first step of making your case. Debasing the opposition doesn’t count.

  • To the new viewer of this page and Comments section: Havana Times presents a moderate spectrum of articles on Cuba and related subjects. The view points include those critical of the Cuban experiment and some supportive, but many of the articles attempt to present personal concerns and general seem honest, even I not always well informed.

    The comments sections is generally not so honest or helpful. Unfortunately a handful of very right-wing critics and haters of everything associated with the Cuban revolution and socialism have made it their job to attack any article or comment they think is supportive of left or revolutionary ideas. Unfortunately, they regularly post old and grossly inaccurate information, and worse their comments seldom address serious ideas. For example this article stresses the value of an alternative perspective and the value of journalistic objectivity.

    One could agree with those principals, and still feel the article is too one-sided, but when a commentator calls for a more accurate examination and appreciation of the complexity and sophistication of corporate media both in Cuba and the US, the usual right-wing commentators jump in with negative irrelevances. So new reader, please decide for yourself who is an honest reader and questioner and who has a malicious agenda.

  • … and of course the 11 people who read your ZNet are the only ones who know the truth. Do you read what you write? It is simply nuts to believe that only ZNet tells the truth and EVERYBODY else is either lying or misled. You call me naïve?

    Amnesty International Publications 2010

    The absence of an independent
    media is a serious obstacle to the enjoyment of
    freedom of expression and the
    adequate review of corrupt and abusive official practices.
    Restrictions on
    the Cuban media are stringent and pervasive and clearly stop those in
    the country from enjoying their right to freedom of opinion and expression,
    including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through
    any media and regardless of frontiers.8 The state maintains a total monopoly
    on television, radio, the press, internet service providers, and other
    electronic means of communication.

  • You have a near complete misunderstanding of how and why the news is presented in the U.S. corporate media.
    I know you generally refuse to read anything that opposes your predetermined thinking but you really need to read Chomsky and Herman’s
    “Manufacturing Consent” and Chomsky’s ” Necessary Illusions” both of which are seminal works on why you cannot get the truth from the corporate -government-tied media .
    You can also read ZNet daily and see that there is a huge difference in the content between ALL the corporate media and ZNet .
    When it comes to U.S. foreign policy , the corporate media is in necessary lockstep for financial reasons and you will only get a differing view from left sources -not liberal-but left as at ZNet and TomDispatch .
    The U.S corporate media is just as one-sided as is Granma when it comes to U.S. foreign policy ( imperialism ) capitalism and the lack of democratic forms in each respective nation.
    The big difference here is that the Cubans know that they are getting only one side of things while you, OTOH, actually think the U.S. corporate media presents objective, two-sided news.
    You’re so naïve.

  • Despite what the chorus of anti-US and pro-Castro communists will likely say about the media in the US, the biggest and most serious difference between what is passed on as news in Cuba and what happens elsewhere is this: While all media will have news and editorial biases, in most places there are competing media, who, if for no other reason than to outsell the competition, will likely cover the news in an opposing or different way. In the US, for example, we have Fox and MSNBC. It is less likely, for most major domestic news stories, that ALL media will take the same media bias. In Castro’s Cuba, there is only one official media voice. There are no other media legally allowed to cover domestic or international news. As a result, Cubans are forced to believe what Fidel wants them to believe or risk being labeled ‘counterrevolutionary’ or worse, like independent journalist Calixta Martinez who was imprisoned for publicizing a growing cholera epidemic. The Castros fear of negative media is typical for socialist regimes who focus on totalitarian rule and maintaining the status quo.

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