Being a Journalist in Cuba

Vicente Moron Aguado

My contribution to Frank Simon’s article entitled: “Cuba’s Dying Press and What’s Next.

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The author I’ve just cited repeats a basic argument: the person any kind of journalism is forced to direct itself to is called “the reader.” Widening this concept to Cuba’s prevailing communist rhetoric, let’s say “the people.”

The first observation worth noting is that, in any recognized one-party totalitarian regime, the distance between the discourse and putting the discourse in practice is immense.

Irrelevant of the platform or for which political regime they work for, any news reporter understands that journalism relies on a mass of people who are interested in what they have to say. Our country’s leaders know this very well; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have created the great media machine they have, whilst cutting down any competition to their precious monopoly.

The solution is simple; it’s predetermined what should interest our “dear people”. For example: Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, Noble prize for Literature winners, aren’t recommended.

Commenting on the article that has inspired these observations, Jose Dario Sanchez wrote: “If Cuba’s alternative digital media were able to reach all of our population… today, Diario de Cuba, 14 y medio, etc. would take all of the official press’ readers by a landslide. Nobody would read Granma, Trabajadores,… however, there will always be censorship!

Another factor is also coming into the spotlight about the ethical behaviour of our skilled leaders: they create a hazy barrier, a deliberate barrier, between what is and what isn’t allowed, such is the case with Diario de Cuba and Havana Times which aren’t blocked to internet users.

The reader for whom we must write will then ask, why does that happen?

The paradox lies in the fact that after many decades of the internet being almost completely banned – de facto and because of prices – thousands of people are now gathering everyday at the many WIFI access points across the country, there are over 50. Beforehand, they pay two dollars an hour without thinking twice, so they could escape onto Facebook searching for friends abroad or to video call their loved ones. It’s very rare to see them browsing through the alternative information sites they have at their fingertips, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

We’re still a long away from the moment that the majority of my fellow citizens will accept digital journalism as an accurate, immediate and easily accessible source of information. The official press doesn’t get tired of stigmatizing so-called “independent journalists”. Any professional informer faces the insult of being called illegal, counterrevolutionary or quite simply “problematic”, when they appear as a contributor on any online platform.

Frank Simon outlined the key idea in this real issue:

“When the time comes to write the truth and not to ask which side is best for climbing up the ladder the fastest, this underground, rebellious and non-conformist journalism will exist. It doesn’t ask for permission, it doesn’t enter alliances, it’s only agenda is the reader. Yes, because being alternative isn’t only about putting yourself on the other side, but to be on the right side, alongside ethics which are painful.”

Let’s imagine that authority demands a bulletproof scientific response about a particular subject. The thinker knows the appropriate formula, made up of six factors, shows the equation to his Boss, who, undecided, winces thinking about the next dilemma – OK, but factor no. 5 can’t be used, it’s a delicate strategic political issue: Leave it out! But can the self-respecting academic come up with the right answer?

This is exactly what happens with Cuba’s “revolutionary” press, for the sake of protecting “superior” political interests, they have to ignore certain aspects of reality. The same thing happens with family remittances when analyzing the national economy. Specialists go around, reduce or simply forget that they account for the most substantial economic contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Revolutionary leaders seem to be embarrassed by this economic fact.

The three observations I’ve mentioned above are enough to understand the dilemma of journalism tied to the Cuban Communist Party:

1-They work for the people, but the interpretation of this maxim is outlined by a distrusting bureaucracy belonging to the Fourth Estate which needs to control every little detail.

2- Limits between what is legally allowed/forbidden in Cuba are vague. There will always be a reason to justify censorship, creating the ensuing confusion amongst readers.

3- Approaches when analyzing will hardly take all of the predetermined factors into account. It’s up to the reporters to use the justifying terminology of trickery.

It’s not strange then to speak about “Cuba’s Dying Press and What’s Next.”


Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]


6 thoughts on “Being a Journalist in Cuba

  • I have faith in humankind, but I also believe human nature is what it is and does not change. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is why it is vital to maintain a constitutionally protected system of human rights and freedoms and to keep strict limits on the power of the State.

    A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.

  • Once certain people get a taste of power they seem to change beyond recognition. However I still have faith in humankind.

  • Just as you said Gerald.

    Orwell wrote “1984” in 1948, which is how the novel got the title. It was published & released in 1949.

    It’s interesting how Orwell intended the book as a warning to socialists, yet many socialists read it as a how-to manual for governing.

  • On December 4th 1948 he sent the final manuscript to the publisher Secker and Warburg and Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on June 8th 1949. At least this is what I am led to believe, however I could be wrong!

  • 1948 Gerard.

  • Reading Nineteen Eighty four by George Orwell reminds me what life might possibly be like for the Cuban people living in Cuba! I realise that the book Nineteen Eighty Four is one of the twentieth century’s great myth-makers which takes a cold hard look at the future. Orwell’s study of individual struggling-or not struggling-against totalitarianism has a relevance and a power to disturb which is as strong now as when it was first published in 1949? Did Fidel and his cohorts manage to read this and think this is how I shall keep the people of Cuba in chains, you know with the ministry of thought police etc? Cuba and the Cuban people deserve so much better! Fidel free your people and take your brother with you, just go! and take your beliefs with you, free the people!

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