HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 8 – I’m not a faithful follower of the popular Brazilian soap operas shown on Cuban TV. However, a character in the current soap, La Favorita, has inspired me to spend a few minutes watching that series at least once a week.
I admire Ze Bob, a young journalist who constantly criticizes the corrupt legislator Romildo Rosa, and who doesn’t fear being beaten or murdered in the defense of his ideas.
If this were a true story, Ze Bob would not be the first or the last reporter to get a good hammering for saying what he “shouldn’t.”
There are many examples of journalists from around the world who have been murdered for writing some article uncovering corruption or crime or for simply being where they shouldn’t.
Fortunately, in Cuba that doesn’t happen. Nonetheless, journalists in Cuba suffer the sentence of a partial silence.
For 51 years, the media has always been behind the Revolution, in its successes and mistakes. It has faithfully reflected the main achievements in health care, education, science, sports and other fields. But unfortunately this same press has not reflected in an equal manner the main social problems that affect the population.
There are many the reasons that can explain why “the newspapers go in one direction and Cuban life in the other.”
The first is self-censorship: the fear of making statements that can create problems with the authorities or with the management of the press itself.
Secondly, deficiencies existing in the country and within its revolutionary process cannot be mentioned openly, this is said to be done to “prevent counter-revolutionary forces from taking advantage of these weaknesses.”
The third could be any justification that avoids addressing the challenges posed by Cuba’s problems, which are similar to those in other societies around the world.
Censorship in Cuban journalism, which brings with it limitations in free expression, is not the only problem faced by the Cuban media, but it is indeed the most worrisome, especially for the younger generations. This is the main reason many prefer not to go into this profession, in addition to the low wages it pays.
The Media and Cuban Women
When the media speak of Cuban woman, they inventory their achievements over the more than 50 years of revolution, citing their opportunities for work and advancement, as well as their primary medical attention, especially for pregnant females.
But why doesn’t anyone speak about the women who die every year at the hands of murderous husbands, or of Juana or Carmen who have been frequent victims of battery and abuse?
They say that the Cuban population is one of the most elderly in Latin America, and the country’s leaders are calling for an increase in the number of births. But no one clearly explains that Cuban women are having only one child, or two at the most, because people’s economic situation is generally bad, and that wages don’t stretch to feed a single person, much less a child; or that in many cases three or more married couples share a single home.
It is frequently mentioned that the United States hasn’t given a visa to some Cuban artist to travel for a concert or to an athlete to participate in some important competition, but it’s not said anywhere that Cubans citizens are denied the right to travel freely, even when they have the money necessary to do so.
When speaking of health care the press mentions the thousands of doctors who graduate every year and the thousands who are providing their services all over the world at no cost to the patients, often under extreme conditions like in Haiti.
So why do they deny the Cuban public an explanation for the causes that recently produced the tragic deaths at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, also known as Mazorra? Why wait for the foreign media to give us their version of the events?
There are many examples of issues that could be investigated and published by our media in a critical and profound manner, but I would need a whole day to list them.
The Cuban people are a learned and well-educated population, which has always been a premise of the Revolution. This is why I don’t understand the fear of sharp criticism, timely suggestions and sincere forewarnings. We are a society where people are taught to think for ourselves and to draw own conclusions.
I think that pointing out difficulties can only do the revolutionary process good. To “cover the sun with one’s finger”, or to turn a blind eye, is not the solution.