Paranoia or Communications Blockade?

Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 25 — I sometimes have the sensation that a “communications blockade” has been established to hinder my work and contact with society.  Officials told me that it was pure paranoia, so that’s why I decided to seek the opinions of our readers.

Over the last few months, for example, my communications have become an infernal mess.  Every so often I have to run to the phone one to repeat useless procedures, always under the threat of the landline or cell phone being cut off or losing my Internet connection.

One day some of my mail stopped coming.  I complained, and then the ones I would send began to bounce back.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigated the matter and, in response, now neither can I receive that Ministry’s e-mails announcing press conferences.

I just had a meeting met with a group of journalism and philology students from Villa Clara.  We had to sit on the floor of the “Mejunje,” the only center that would let us use their facility for the conference when all other doors for the were closed to us.

The young students and the professors attempted without success to secure a classroom at the Universidad de la Villas, and someone “up above” prohibited the local Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC) from offering any of its facilities.

By the way, that’s not the first time I’ve meet with journalism students.  At the faculty of the University of Havana I gave a lecture that wound up turning into a debate that was professionally enriching for all of us who participated.

But evidently there are those who don’t share my assessment of the encounter.  According to staff there, the dean of the journalism school was called on the carpet by his superiors so that they could —in very clear language— express their dissatisfaction with him.

These could appear to be isolated incidents, but the list doesn’t stop there.

Attacks from two extremes

As you will recall, just over a month ago I wrote an article concerning debates that are organized at the office of the magazine Temas on the last Thursday of every month.

The reaction was immediate.  At the very next Temas debate they gave us little slips of paper through which we were notified that starting from that moment it would be forbidden for the press to record, film or even take notes on the debates.

Paradoxically, to this action chimed in a dissident blogger.  In an “open letter,” she said that I was receiving money from the Cuban government and therefore I was a “mercenary” (an accusation that lacks any originality in this country).

It’s curious that those who clamor so much about freedom of speech and freedom for the press on the island are requesting that the BBC silence me.  This woman is wasting her talent struggling within the small dissident community; her career would skyrocket on the government’s censorship team.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m persecuted by either the government or the dissidents, because that would be missing the point.  I’m only trying to uncover the “Torquemadas*” of both the political extremes and to show how they share in their absurdities.

In fact, if the Cuban government had wanted to take me out of the picture, I would have been living in another country a long time ago.  And for their part, the great majority of dissidents are more than happy to speak with me every time I ask them their opinion on any particular issue.

But each sector has its own “Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition” that sometimes works “on its own” and without a license.  For the inquisitors, those who believe that the world turns are dangerous enemies.  Therefore, they “must be torched” to the point of turning differences into ashes.

It is the logic of extremism, so I imagine that in the future they’ll continue shutting doors and they’ll continue sending “open letters.”  Those are the vain attempts to silence the messenger that brings news we don’t want to hear.

Some got an itch when we talked about corruption within the Cuban commercial airline agency, while others came down with an allergic reaction when we mentioned those in Miami who have pocketed millions that Washington has sent for the island’s dissident movement.

Threatening, they demand that we all accept their worlds, devoid of nuances.  These are places where an alcoholic becomes a hero in exile, and the starving to death of sick people at the psychiatric hospital ends up becoming a State secret.

But let’s not deceive ourselves.  Censorship is always self-censorship, because it’s only triumphs if it’s able to instill fear.  In fact it doesn’t symbolize power…but weakness.  It evidences the inability of the censors to rebut the arguments of those they censor.

* Tomas de Torquemada, (1420 – 1498) prominent leader of the Spanish Inquisition.

Havana Times translation of the Spanish original authorized by BBC Mundo.

One thought on “Paranoia or Communications Blockade?

  • Fernando, I think the itch on both sides could be that you are not taking sides you are simply reporting what you see. I though that will be the right thing to do for the press. Reporting on the news and trying to be impartial and not subjective.

    So in a maner of speaking you are in the cross fire refusing to take sides.

    I have read your articles, the great majority of them and I see when you write you try to be fair some times you are critical of the Cuban government some times you are critical of the opposition. As you know there is a dirty war going on. Can one be fair and impartial in such circunstancies?

    Each side claim to be the right side the side of justice.
    But we know that can’t be. Only one can be just.
    We can see and read what people from Cuba write. We can see what people write about and determine easily who really is playing dirty.

    Incidentally for those who have read your reference to a blogger’s open letter and wishing to read what that person actually wrote here is the link

    I think people should be able to judge by themselves.

    Just to illuminate this particular part

    “But let’s not deceive ourselves. Censorship is always self-censorship, because it’s only triumphs if it’s able to instill fear”

    I also submit for your judgement the particularly vicious attack against another Cuban blogger.

    This article is in spanish but it will be translated to english. So you can appreciate the dimensions of this war going on by the Cuban government against their own citizens exercising their right to free expression. This particular person was fired from his job for exercising his right to free speech and please consider that the government is still the main employer of Cubans.
    Do you really think those fears are imaginary? How many people on their right mind will dare oppose a government that plays such dirty cards?

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