Cracks in Cuba’s Official Media Monopoly

Luis Fernandez Torres

One of Cuba's expensive pay-for Wifi hotspots. Photo: Caridad
One of Cuba’s expensive pay-for Wifi hotspots. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Since the late ‘90s, when the Internet began to be moderately accessible from Cuba, the reality of access to information began to undergo a slow change in our country. For many decades, the government’s mass media channels were practically the only news source we had. Censorship and controlling information was an easy task back then.

With the turn of the century, some Cubans, a small minority of the population which I include myself in, became Internet users, thereby beginning to have access to multiple news outlets from all over the world. Then the wave of bloggers and independent journalists came who legitimately began to write about Cuban reality from different viewpoints, making the government and its related institutions, which up until then had tirelessly fought against this, concerned and provoking a response.

Government media continued and continues to be the great news leader in Cuba, because while there is public internet access, it is still very expensive and therefore inaccessible to the majority of the population and, out of those who do use the web today, only a minority uses it to inform themselves about what’s really going on.

Another media platform on the island, which is no less relevant, is the “bola” phenomenon, a kind of radio station that transmits from mouth to mouth, where we find out about truths and lies that normally can’t be voiced on Cuban TV.

“Bola” in Cuba is provoked and sustained by government censorship and the absence of official news a lot of the time. The veracity of these rumors that spread like wildfire across the country can be questionable, however, in reality, it’s nothing more than putting into practice the most ancient form of delivering news; all of this sustained by the media’s absurd silence on certain issues and events that take place in our country.

The availability of Miami TV from illegal connections also joins the list, which is watched in many households in a less discreet manner everday, and we must also mention the news that, instead of being leaked, reaches us on some kind of USB, such as videos of theft and embezzlement, documents from the national computerization plan, the famous raid of Gilberman’s house, videos from police surveillance cameras, etc.

The media reality I live in, this mix of government media, Internet, street scoop and a load of garbage news, makes me feel like I’m licensed to voice my opinion, even when I can’t prove the veracity of what is being discussed.

The government tries to put off (seeing as they can’t stop it) internet access to the masses as long as it can. However it’s very hard to fight against something which, by nature, is uncontrollable. It’s as if they need a timeframe, not only to prepare technology infrastructure which will support this mass connectivity, but so that their control mechanisms can evolve too and confront this reality that is already being contemplated.

On an international level, government media is becoming less and less trustworthy. Phenomena such as social media, Wikileaks, Anonymous and others have laid out the harsh reality on a plate, placing and exposing great centers of power worldwide, which used to march all over the world without punishment. Translating this onto a national scale, we can understand the concern that this news opening may stir in our highest spheres of power.

I think that, in spite of the paralysis that still exists with regard to this issue, the means we have to inform ourselves about what’s really going on are inevitably continuing to diversify, however, it’s not because of this that things will be less hazy. Untrustworthy news sources, a lack of information, censorship and trickery will continue to be variables in an equation that is becoming more and more complex. There’ll be a bit of everything, except for silence. We have no other choice but to learn how to distinguish facts from fiction and get closer to the truths that the powerful people in our local and global world try so very well to hide from us.

2 thoughts on “Cracks in Cuba’s Official Media Monopoly

  • I’ve been mentioning for a long time now how the internet will be the demise of the present system in Cuba. Perhaps some remnants but the insane treatment of people who disagree and there arrest is beyond sad. Good print Luis hopefully the people of Cuba will opt for a shift somewhere in the middle. By the way, we in the USA are having our own issues with the present election so I’m certainly not preaching and yes we are a republic but something isn’t right with this year’s game.

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