By Pilar Montes
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.
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.
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.