Cuban Journalists Defend their Right to Inform

By Pilar Montes

Government media misuse their reports and opinion pieces by sugarcoating their information and comments on current affairs.  Photo: Robert Hills

HAVANA TIMES — Jose Marti, our most distinguished journalist and father of Cuban journalism once said, “Words were created to expose the truth, not to hide it.” He also highlighted the fact that “facts and words are actual truths.” He also reminded us that words “are superfluous when they are not based on fact, when they fail to clarify and when they don’t spark interest.”

Journalists from Santa Clara and from other regions in the country took part in debates at the recent Plenary of the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC), where they demanded that changes be made to Cuba’s information policy and called for censorship to finally end as all this does is restrict their creativity and, worst of all, limit the amount of information that reaches the population.

On June 28, in the middle of the UPEC’s Plenary Session, Karina Marron, the assistant director at Granma the leading government newspaper, warned those present of a social storm brewing in response to the government’s shortcomings, which doesn’t only involve oil and food shortages, as foreign media have pointed out.

Examples of the population’s annoyance fill our TV reports and the Letters to the Editor section which appears in the Friday edition of Granma.

Along with the unsustainable situation of a lack of housing; streets and pavements looking like they belong in war zones; water being wasted; customers who are unhappy about price and weight irregularities of what they are able to buy in shops; salaries and pensions which only give the majority of the population enough to “not die” as many of us say, there are other restrictions which prevent the working population and productive forces from developing.

People want to see journalists reflect their concerns about public services, such as gas, electricity, telephones etc., in their reports, not just the voice of officials who are responsible for these shortcomings.

Karina Marrón, assistant director of Granma newspaper. (Foto: YAG)

An organization that defends consumer rights is seriously lacking, which is independent of State store chains and the ministers who play the “judge and judged” role.

It’s necessary to push forward with investigative journalism so that the Cuban people can see that their complaints aren’t falling on deaf ears and that crimes won’t go unpunished, as well as knowing what the money they give to the State as taxes is used for.

Nothing I’ve just said implies a change of the system, all it asks for is a change in our leaders’ consciences who don’t seem to empathize with our problems because they don’t experience them firsthand. Therefore, the reporter should capture their attention and demand measures to be taken which won’t take decades to solve our problems.

National media misuse their reports and opinion pieces by sugarcoating their information and comments on current affairs. There is no news, their articles need to do more than just skirt around the problems they write about. They need to report whether government plans are being met with statistics and, the reasons for why it was met or nor met, and who is responsible for the success or failure of this plan, citing names and surnames.

The will and profession of our journalists doesn’t mean anything if there isn’t a consistent line of action which encourages change within this profession.

Official Cuban publications and news agencies.

On January 8, 2014, the First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, said that State entities were also partly accountable for the population’s doubts, misunderstandings and lack of information. This last point was repeated by President Raul Castro at the recent 7th Communist Party Congress. However, this alleged objective still hasn’t been met.

The theory that “we’re letting them steal our platform, our initiative, that the public look for what’s interesting instead of what’s important and therefore, it’s necessary that we make what’s important interesting,” was put forward by journalist Noel Otano. In other words, what journalists need is a new language so that their public can identify themselves in their work.

The issue of young people not staying in journalism and moving to other economic sectors that pay better was also brought to light at the journalist’s meeting. The participants also made leaders aware of how it was a matter of urgency to implement these changes in the Constitution, institutions and in pay, which simply can’t wait until the current government hands over the reins to its successor in 2018.


7 thoughts on “Cuban Journalists Defend their Right to Inform

  • July 8, 2016 at 11:07 pm
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    Good!

  • July 7, 2016 at 6:34 pm
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    It has some names which I assume were the names of the artists and not names of persons shown in the mural. Also, there was the name of the group Colectivo de Melaíto and credit given to collaborators at the the periodical Vanguardia. It was dated 14 – 1 – 013 which presumably means it went up four months prior to our visit.

  • July 7, 2016 at 11:53 am
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    Did it have the names of the artists upon it?

  • July 7, 2016 at 7:57 am
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    I was interested to see the mention of journalists from Santa Clara. I was there for a day or two in May of 2013. Walking the streets i saw a cartoon mural denouncing the failings of Cuban journalism, in particular “secretism.”
    This was not a hastily scrawled graffiti, but had clearly taken some time. Apparently, some Cubans are dissatisfied with Cuban media and some of these are able to say so in public.

  • July 5, 2016 at 4:48 pm
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    Circles, this is an excellent and balanced article by Pilar Montes. I applaud the Plenary of the Cuban Journalists Association for fighting for less governmental restrictions. I also applaud the Cuban government for, in the person of the key Granma official Karina Marron, for also addressing the issue. Significantly, the article made this point: “Examples of the population annoyance fill our TV reports and the Letters to the Editor section which appears in the Friday edition of Granma.” Cristina Escobar, Cuba’s brilliant 28-year-old broadcast journalist, has made three publicized journalistic trips to the U. S. — the first to California in 2014 and since then two very important visits to Washington where she garnered some headlines…as well as at last two supposedly significant offers to defect to Miami. In Washington she told the U. S. media, “I believe journalists in Cuba have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalists have to tell the truth about Cuba.” While the vast anti-Cuba lobby in the U. S., as well as politically correct and propagandized Americans, scoff at that comment, I believe democracy-loving Americans should not dismiss it because, apparently, the well-educated and extremely talented and intelligent Escobar firmly believes it…and she should know. The Escobar interviews on YOUTUBE — especially the two courtesy of respected Cuban expert Tracey Eaton — render an additional plethora of Escobar quotes that fair-minded U. S. journalists have taken note of and publicized, such as: “Cuba’s fate is up to Cubans on the island, not Cubans in Miami or Washington;” “Like other governments, Cuba’s is imperfect but it is up to Cubans on the island to improve and correct those imperfections, not self-serving foreigners,” etc., etc. The U. S. media, in fact, has an approval rating in single digits according to polls because many Americans believe billionaire ownership of the mainstream media makes the industry a propaganda machine for the billionaire owners. For example, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post has turned that liberal bastion into a haven for right-wing editorialists.If Cristina Escobar ends up in a $10 million mansion in Miami and as the top broadcast journalist in the U. S., however, I’ll concede many points to Carlyle MacDuff whose prime arguments in this forum always seem to revert to Senator McCarthy’s ancient right-wing tactics of accusing anyone who disagrees with him to be a Communist or…whatever. Like Sarah Stephens at the Center for Democracy in the Americas and millions of other democracy-lovers, I believe America’s Cuban policy has been undemocratic and anti-American ever since the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor as the pretext for the 1898 Spanish-American War. The military occupation of Cuba and the theft of Guantanamo Bay in 1903 began a long line of right-wing policies that shame the U. S. and democracy, highlighted by the U. S. teaming with the Mafia in 1952 to support the Batista dictatorship that, in 1959, was overturned by an island that had fought for independence against Spain and America for 500+ years. The Bay of Pigs attack, extremely discriminatory pro-Cuban exile laws, the terrorism tied to Miami and Washington against innocent Cubans and innocent Americans (young Ronnie Moffitt, for example}, the harboring to this day of well-known terrorists associated with such atrocities as the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, etc., etc., are inexcusable and I challenge Carlyle MacDuff to excuse them…or to explain why Cristina Escobar is a hard-working journalist in Cuba instead of easily being a multi-millionaire in Miami.

  • July 5, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    Cuban journalist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? As long as the Castros’ spin masters in the Ministry of Information can have the last word about what can be published or broadcast, Cuban news writers have no right to use the title “journalist” as a job title. We don’t want to confuse them with the folks who at least attempt to tell the truth and inform the public.

  • July 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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    For fifty seven years, the Castro regime has stifled the supply of information to the people of Cuba, both by eradicating all independent media and by censorship. Not even the most rabid supporters of the regime can argue that statement as it is one of fact reflecting the deliberate policies of the regime and a normal practice in all communist states.
    Both Fidel and Raul Castro have criticized freedom of the press and along with Che Guevara opposed the provision of open information.
    The very purpose of communism – described by Fidel Castro as “socialismo” is to induce conformity of thought and action with compliance by the “mass” to their dictates.
    The use of half-truths is in constant use, with the slogans and expressions of the indoctrinated even reflected in the pages of Havana Times. Quote: ‘Forward ever, backward never.” Such mindless prattle only serves to confirm the inadequacies of those who parrot such tripe.
    Why are communists or the supporters of “socialismo” opposed to Cubans being awarded access to information? The answer is fear! Fear that when able to fully access information that those still capable of thinking as individuals will rebel and seek alternative forms of government.
    Those alternative forms of government to communist dictatorship are democratic political parties. They can be Democratic Socialist, Liberal, Conservative or variations of any of them, but what each of them have in contrast to Communism (socialismo) is freedom of choice for people to vote for whom they wish.
    Let those who favour the dictates of the Castro family communist regime now defend the restrictions imposed by that regime. But, whilst doing so, let them consider that they are utilizing their own freedom of speech while seeking to deny it to others.

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