HAVANA TIMES — The detention of a group of journalists trying to cover the hurricane aftermath in Guantanamo province spotlights the illegality of journalism in Cuba. The number of colleagues who are stand up to “laws”, for lack of a law that specifies reporters duties and rights, is increasing day by day.
The war to keep hold of the news monopoly has been lost, alternative media, blogs, greater access to the internet, the “Weekly Package”, film stands and satellite TV have all outstripped the government of its control capacity.
The show that the censorship apparatus put on in Guantanamo isn’t a sign of its power but of its weakness. Having to appeal to the police to impose obedience and letting news run loose across the world that in Cuba, journalists are suppressed, doesn’t seem to be the most intelligent solution.
They weren’t even creative enough to give reasons for the detention; they used the same conspiracy theories they always do, where they insinuated the “hand of the enemy” in funding and the possibility of using PayPal while the rest of Cubans are banned from using it.
If these journalists really did violate some law, the fair thing to do would be to take them to trial, charge them and then the judges can decide whether they are guilty or not. It isn’t ethical though to detain them, not file any charges and discredit them by saying things without really saying them, in true dirty journalistic fashion.
Some people don’t realize that our media reality has changed and they want to continue on using the same restrictions they did 20 years ago. In 1990, it was impossible to work without credentials, today, there are Cubans working for the world’s largest newspapers without having to ask anybody for permission.
New blogs are created everyday that inform Cuba, from Cuba, about a country that doesn’t appear in government media. We are told stories with the freshness of somebody who lives immersed in Cuban life and who doesn’t have to ask for permission to write or authorization to publish their work.
Alternative media platforms are steaming ahead in spite of the unpleasant shouts from those who advocate for it to be erradicated. The ban on journalists being able to work for alternative media while working for government media has openly been ridiculed by important figures in Cuban journalism.
Journalism platforms are multiplying, it’s our young journalists who are searching for and creating spaces where they can tell their stories which have been censored by government media. And there’s nothing the government can do about this, unless of course somebody is thinking about sticking all of those who disobey them in jail.
Would they send UJC (Young Communist League) journalists who signed a protest in Santa Clara to jail? Or those who create new media platforms? Or those who write blogs? Or others who write for El Toque, for the New York Times and other international media?
Will they put a ban on the Weekly Package and its distribution? Will they revise the content at every place where videos are loaned out? Will they launch another campaign against illegal satellite and cable TV? While more than one person dreams about such an “offensive”, it’s very unlikely that the government will give the go-ahead.
Political costs have already been extremely high this year. Time and time again, Cuba has made the headlines for the restrictions it imposes on its journalists, all thanks to the childlike vision of those who understand cyberspace like a pond where they can navigate their little toy boats.
Among journalists, there aren’t conflicting positions but there are multiple visions. Simplifying this to a clash between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary journalism only serves to highlight the great misunderstanding that exists here of the reality of journalism today, it’s a very superficial analysis and lacks any solution.
The illegal actions of those who head the Cuban media has been going on for a long time now. However, ever since diplomatic relations have been reestablished with the US, and especially during Obama’s visit to Cuba, they are looking to bang heads, unable to face the basic challenges that the national media is currently experiencing.
The detention in Guantanamo of several journalists is the latest of its slip-ups. The price of this clumsy action was to put the persecution of journalists “on the front page” while the Civil Defense troops’ huge success to prevent Cuban deaths during the time that Hurricane Matthew struck, has been put aside in the background.
With communication “strategies” like this, the Cuban Revolution has more than enough enemies.