HAVANA TIMES – Journalist Fernando Ravsberg has lived in Cuba for a quarter of a century working with foreign media including the BBC and Público and publishing a personal blog that has proven to be a space for constructive criticism among Cubans on the island and abroad.
Cuba is a country where the practice of debate does not exist in the official media, which only presents one side, one opinion on any issue. Therefore, a modest effort in cyberspace to further discussion and analysis with reports and comments touching on different aspects of the socio-economic life of the country is never appreciated by the more conservative wing of the Communist Party and its censorship organs.
The most frequently used tactic to combat information and opinions that are not authorized is to attack the messenger, evading even mention of the message. They almost always accuse their victim of being an instrument of the devil (US imperialism) and being financed from abroad to discredit the always well-intentioned Cuban revolutionary government.
Today in his blog, Cartas desde Cuba (Letters from Cuba), Ravsberg brings us the latest assault on his daily effort of trying to report and comment from Havana.
The Hungry Pack of Hounds
During the last weeks a new campaign against Cartas desde Cuba (Letters from Cuba) and against me has taken a virulence like never before. The siege is closing and there is a possibility that the extremists will win even if they never convince us.
They repeat lies again and again so they stick in people’s minds. I am accused of being a “mercenary” but they do not say who pays me. They know full well that I do not receive money from anyone, but that doesn’t matter as long as it serves the defamation effort.
They shout that I am part of a conspiracy of “international information monopolies” against the Cuban Revolution but they fail to mention that I work for a leftist media. They keep that silent because it is not useful in their dirty slander campaigns.
Faced with the difficulty of appealing to reason to achieve the closure of the blog, now they use the sentiment of the Cubans. The great offense was to use an image taken from the internet where a turtle carries the flag on its carapace and on its trail.
“Ravsberg has insulted our patriotic symbols,” say those who started this campaign, as they beat their chests. They are the same ones that are silent when a group of rumba dancers, athletes or musicians use the same flag as costumes.
Likewise, the Cuban media shows dozens of drawings or images with the flag painted on hands, faces or fists. In every rally in the Plaza of the Revolution people walk over thousands of little Cuban flags thrown to the ground. But none of that matters because it does not serve to attack Ravsberg.
With this I don’t mean the Cubans who sincerely felt offended or annoyed by that image on my post. To them my apologies, represented by the fact that I removed the turtle from the blog despite the authorities never asking me to do so.
However, here, there is much more than offended patriots. There is a campaign organized by the extremists that, mockingly, I call my “Fan Club”, which for years have tried to get the Cuban government to close my blog and or expel me from the country.
They can’t tolerate a different voice, or a different perspective. For extremists the only truth is “their truth” and all other criteria must disappear or at least remain in a fearful silence while they become the only voice.
The extremists have all the resources, institutional support, money, excellent ADSL connection to the internet, offices, cars, gasoline, dollars for foreign travel, television spaces and an army of journalists, computer scientists, designers and secretaries.
And with all those resources at their disposal they feel threatened by the blog that a journalist publishes out of his own home, with no more money than his savings and limited internet. They fear the credibility we have achieved and that they have never had.
That is why Cartas desde Cuba doubled readership in 2016. It has followers in 162 countries, mainly in Cuba but also in all of America and Europe. We have friends in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Israel, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Burundi, Polynesia, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Jose Marti said that “a just beginning from the depths of a cave can do more than an army.” And today, in the Internet age, it could be added that this truth multiplies because the “cave” has echoes capable of reaching the last corner of the world.
The “courageous” army of cyber-warriors cannot reach us, so it pressures the authorities to eliminate us. If they have to request reinforcements to fight my blog, imagine the sad role they play in the much-publicized US information war.
However, no matter what the dark forces do, Cuba advances. From blogs, informational websites and digital media created in recent years has emerged a way to make journalism distant from the typical childish extremes.
Hundreds of Cuban colleagues, outside and within the official media, yearn and demand to make a different journalism. One that is timely, serious, truthful, profound and balanced to achieve credibility. Their efforts will not be stopped for the good of the entire nation.
And while the country is transformed, the pack of hounds that surrounds us despairs. They call on the government to use force because they know they are incapable of participating in a battle of ideas, where one fights with arguments and proposals.