Burying One’s Head in the Sand: On the Strategies of the Cuban Press

By Fernando Ravsberg

Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica.

HAVANA TIMES — Despite the many signals prior to the “crisis” of Cuban migrants in Costa Rica, the situation seems to have taken those who control Cuba’s press entirely by surprise. This would help explain why they took more than a week to react to developments.

You can’t really blame them, seeing how much they have on their plate to begin with. Perhaps they were busy censoring the sitcom Vivir del cuento (“Living by One’s Wits”), looking for hidden messages in a play or preparing an offensive against the “fiercest enemy,” alternative media.

Silence has never been an efficacious answer for the press. It’s actually a fairly dumb response, considering that, these days, Cuban citizens have access to satellite antennae, the so-called “weekly package” and the Internet – and that they keep in touch with their relatives abroad via cell phones.

This censorship apparatus spawned Cuba’s “grapevine” news system and, during this “crisis,” it was again put into operation, with the informational distortions typical of these oral forms of transmission, where everyone adds a “homegrown” ingredient to what they hear.

The monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party over information has died. Antennas, the weekly package and the Internet have opened the doors of the press to the outside world. The grapevine – the verbal transmission of information – takes care of the rest. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz.

One could speculate our colleagues in the official press are incapable people, but then we see an analysis of the “crisis” in the personal blog of Granma’s international information editor Sergio Alejandro Gomez, and it is clear Cuba has good journalists and bad press.

A week later, Cuba announces that a media campaign against Cuba is underway. If that’s truly the case, why didn’t they send any journalists to Costa Rica to get their own version of the facts? Why did they leave the battlefield to the “enemy” for so long?

When the Cuban press finally reacted, it was already too late. The entire world had already assumed a position about the situation. The long response time was a disaster even for the political interests of the Cuban government, which was portrayed as the chief culprit behind the migratory crisis.

In the media, silences of this nature are paid with credibility. How are citizens expected to believe what they’re told if the nation’s press “hides the ball” every time the game gets tough?

This way, the Cuban government and Communist Party have been left with media that can only shoot blanks. These may still make some noise and blow smoke, but the lack the projectiles needed to penetrate the minds of readers.

High government officials say time and time again that Cuba needs media that will address the informational needs of the population, but, when times of “crisis” like these come along, they allow censors to gag journalists.

Granma journalists themselves write the information about the crisis that the newspaper did not publish regarding the “crisis” in Costa Rica. Good journalists, bad press. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz.

Granma journalists themselves write the information about the crisis that the newspaper did not publish regarding the “crisis” in Costa Rica. Good journalists, bad press. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz.

Cuban journalists cannot publish any articles without the authorization of the editor in chief, whose position depends on approval by the Ideology Department of the Communist Party. The most they can do is what Sergio did: to publish them in their blog and reveal the stupidity of censorship.

We republished two of his articles in Cartas desde Cuba, not because we agreed with them 100 %, but because we acknowledged they offered a serious analysis from the perspective of a Cuban communist. Not more, not less, than what one should expect to read in Cuba’s official newspaper.

It’s been more than demonstrated that things aren’t going to improve in the press through public statements or resolutions passed at congresses. No substantial changes will come about as long as the Communist Party maintains the kind of inefficient and paralyzing control over the media it does today.

The problem is in the system. It is to be found in the relationship that exists between the media and power structures. Therefore, the solution demands political will, audacity and trust in people’s ability to process the information they receive in an intelligent manner.

What happened during the first week of this migratory “crisis” isn’t new, it’s happened hundreds of times before in Cuba. Some cases were absolutely ridiculous, such as the silence of the press in connection with the power cut that left half of the island in darkness.

The difference is that, today, Cubans have access to “alternative” sources of information. To think that a crisis like the one we’re seeing can be kept from most Cubans is as stupid as trying to bury one’s head in the sand.

5 thoughts on “Burying One’s Head in the Sand: On the Strategies of the Cuban Press

  • What Kennedy Earle Clarke says about the press has a lot of truth to it, although there is a range of opinions even in the capitalist media. The reality is, you have to be pretty wealthy to own a printing press.

    However, you don’t have to be wealthy to own a website!

    When Cubans get widespread access to the internet, they will be able to read every viewpoint in the world, from far Left to far Right, with some floating up above or even in another dimension.

    You can’t treat adults like children forever.

  • The game changer will be expanding access to information via the internet. It’s basically simple and would hit every small village in Cuba. Let the people read about Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Zuckerberg to understand what the US is about and how individuals are making the difference. Let then the citizens of Cuba make their own minds up as to which direction they wish to travel. The old game of insane media bombardment from the US to Cuba is not the way to do it and a waste of money (a bit embarrassing as well!) May a thousand WiFi’s bloom!

  • On behalf of all Zombies, I think your comment is too personal. The post is about the failings of the Cuban press.

  • Moses, how can anyone trust the press? You speak about freedom of the press, but that press is owned by that one man who is anti-working class, is right wing, is racist and publishes what he himself thinks is in his best interest. The owner of the press is just like you Moses. The owner of the press will not educate his readers to the fact that the Castro’s are from wealthy family, but they were touched by the plight of their fellow men and, forsaking all their worldly goods and privileges they gravitated on the side of the oppressed to right the wrongs, the evil, the unfairness,the in-humaneness meted out to the suffering massess of people in the land. Instead of applauding them for their Good Samaritan DEED, you keep heaping revulsion on them calling them dictators and all the adjectives you could find in your inhumane heart and soul to label them as evil? WHEN YOU ENTER THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE OF LIFE, TAKE YOUR MATERIAL WEALTH WITH YOU MOSES. Let them lengthen your casket, let them widen your casket so that you can take everything with you. Do not forget anything Moses!These brothers have demonstrated that they possess Angelic Qualities. They are copying the Teachings of JESUS WHILE He was here on earth. They crucified JESUS on a wooden cross; you are crucifying the Castro brothers on the cross of the press-the printed media. Are the working class people not as important as you Moses? Why should you be privileged to have your children eat sumptuously but their children must eat the dregs which you and your children choose to leave in the plate? Why must your children have access to the best schools but the working class must be kept in ignorance? Why should your family access good medical attention but the poor man must die in the streets like a dog for lack of that same medical attention? Are we not human Moses? If you receive a cut to any part of your body, the same red blood which flows from your body, flows from ours too? So, What gripe do you have against the working class people of the world and especially Cuba? You are a Zombie Moses. You are devoid of any human feeling. Make a valiant attempt Moses to make the WORLD a much better place in which to exist than how you met it when you landed. Good Gracious man, I could never believe that men of your ilk inhabit the earth!..

  • While my wife’s grandfather is fully aware of all the chisme (gossip) in the streets, he reserves his trust for only what he believes is the ‘official’ news. I’m sure there are a lot more Cubans who feel just like he does. The Cuban press continues to be relevant despite a generation of known missteps and obfuscations. The Castros have been successful at convincing at least that first generation of revolutionaries that the international and alternative media is not to be trusted. Fundamentally, many Cubans believe that if it is good news about Cuba in the world press, it must be true because that media hates to say anything good about Cuba. But if the same press publishes anything less than flattering, it must be false because of the imperialists desire to diminish the revolution. Because of their distrust of outside media, many Cubans look to Granma for their news.

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