HAVANA TIMES — Writer Miguel Barnet believes that the Cuban press should feel proud to be an official government medium.
Barnet, who will turn 75 on January 28, participated at an exchange held in the headquarters of Cuba’s Granma newspaper and expressed nothing but praise for the work of Cuban journalists, whom he urged to continue to support the government in their articles.
“Don’t worry when people say you work for an official government journal, feel proud and say: ‘I am holding the shield of the homeland.’ Granma ought to be more official, more revolutionary, more Fidelista and more honest,” the writer declared in response to the critical tone with which the foreign press refers to Cuban journalism.
The remarks by the author of Cimarron (Runaway slave) recalled a similar comment made on March of 1992 by then government official Carlos Aldana, who urged journalists to be “pro-government” and be proud of this during celebrations for Cuban Press Day.
Barnet’s presence at the ideological bastion of the Cuban press opened a series of exchanges with different personalities, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication, founded by Fidel Castro on October 4, 1965.
Barnet is the current chair of the Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of State and a deputy at the National Assembly. He is also the chair of the Fernando Ortiz Foundation.
Barnet’s Front Page Poem
The note published by Granma refers to Barnet as a man “who has placed his profound sensitivity at the service of journalism.” The exchange gathered Granma journalists and employees at the newspaper’s former printing press.
“The awareness that the people of Cuba have today, an awareness lacked by other peoples, is owed in great measure to the work of the Cuban press,” Barnet declared during the talk.
Barnet reminisced about his work with Granma and recalled that his poem Che, dedicated to the Argentinean revolutionary, appeared on the front page of the newspaper in 1967. The poem, which Pablo Milanes later adapted and made into a song, says: “It’s not that I want to trade my pen for your gun, but you are the true poet.”
He also reminisced about the “incredible times” he shared with Fidel Castro, Jorge Enrique Mendoza (editor in chief and founder of Granma) and journalist Marta Rojas at the newspaper.
Barnet also offered young journalists a number of recommendations: “The true journalist has to read up on everything. They have to be even more organic than the writer because, while the writer can focus on the issues that interest him and forsake all others, the journalist has to be conscious of how today’s political apparatus works – that, at least, defines the true journalist.”