HAVANA TIMES – Her name is Marina Ovsyannikova and until a few days ago she was an editor at Channel 1 of Russian official television. But after having the courage to appear with a sign against the war in Ukraine during a live newscast, her name has become synonymous with professional integrity and daring, as well as a symbol that many in authoritarian countries should learn from.
The day that Ovsyannikova unfurled her sign, the social networks about Cuba were immersed in the umpteenth debate around a government journalist, Yunior Smith, who took to his heels and is asking for asylum in the country which, until recently, was the center of his attacks. As with every controversy of this type, some accused the presenter of being opportunistic, others appealed to empathy to accept his escape, and others converted his departure from the country into the new watershed that was going to divide us as Cubans.
A woman, alone, with a piece of cardboard written on by hand, shook up the entire controversy that was wearing us down. She made the arguments of one side and the other seem frivolous. “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda,” read the sign she showed on camera behind the news anchor. With that gesture, she not only showed immense decorum, but she also risked ending up in a legal process that would take her to prison for many years, although until now her audacity has resulted in an arrest and a fine.
Without intending to nor having this Island in her mind, Ovsyannikova was also speaking to us Cubans. She was telling those who disown anyone who works in an official media that one day, any employee of those propaganda mechanisms takes a role or uses her voice to denounce an injustice reaches a much larger audience than an activist shouting in a corner.
To the other party, who calls for mercy for the official journalists who, until yesterday, were defaming opponents and now celebrate having arrived “in the land of freedom,” this young Russian was reminding them that something can always be done. Every opportunity in front of the microphone, every chance to speak live and not denounce the dictatorship is a lost opportunity, and more time given to the longest-running authoritarian system in this hemisphere.
Ovsyannikova threw us against the mirror of our trifles. Not all those who work in the official channels are run-of-the-mill repeaters of slogans, nor is “nothing can be done because everything is controlled” of much use to evade civic responsibility. We have to watch closely so that this woman does not end up with her bones in jail, poisoned by a mysterious substance or pushed into exile; but also to call for each Cuban to use the crack that opens up to get rid of this horror.
Editors note: Watch a video interview by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour with Marina Ovsyannikova.