HAVANA TIMES, July 15 — Any similarity of this title between that of the July 8 article “El derecho a la información” (The Right to Information), by journalist Annerys Ivette Leyva and published in the Granma newspaper, is absolutely intentional.
The reason I didn’t use the exact title of her work was to avoid confusion…and possibly a complaint.
“Providing systematic, truthful and diverse information that allows an approach to reality from all the complex angles that can be offered doesn’t constitute a favor, but a right of the people.” With this brave statement began the article by Annerys.
By “brave” I don’t mean disobedient or defiant toward the government. The article doesn’t question Cuba’s socialist model or the revolution. In fact, throughout the piece the journalist cites the principles established during the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, in 1975, as well as the words of President Raul Castro during his speech at the closing of the session of the National Assembly in December 2010, and those he made in his Main Report to the Sixth Congress of the party in April 2011.
In our country it has become common practice to mention the words of the current president or those of the “Eternal Leader of the Cuban Revolution.” This is done when someone wants to state a truth that wouldn’t otherwise be recognized unless expressed by the leader or the president. Here, “truth” only becomes legitimized through speeches by them.
This article denounces (no other term occurs to me) the difficulties faced by journalists in trying to inform people through carrying out their work for the country’s official media. Providing such information, as the Annerys explains, doesn’t mean revealing state secrets that put the security of the nation at risk, but of reporting on issues that are of interest and concern to ordinary Cubans. When naming those entities that create obstacles to professional journalism, she had the courage to identify the institutions of the central government and local government structures.
Who’s to Blame?
However, when reading her article I couldn’t avoid wondering if on occasion the obstacles that our journalists face aren’t indeed erected by the editors of their very own publications or those Party people above the editors.
I wouldn’t think to ask myself that question if I hadn’t worked for three years for the newspaper Tribuna de Habana, the official weekly newspaper of the Communist Party for the City of Havana.
When employed there, I tried to publish a commentary about racism in our society for that paper’s op-ed page. In fact, my piece was approved by the editors of the paper but the party “didn’t find it opportune” (that was the explanation I received from the paper’s director and deputy-director).
Another colleague tried to publish an article on the persistent problem of transportation in our country. However, we found that no one was allowed to write anything on that issue at that moment according to directives coming down from the party.
In Tuesday staff meetings the previous edition of the paper would be analyzed and issues would be listed that the party considered “suitable” for reporting on in future editions.
Once again, I must applaud the article by Annerys Ivette Leyva and express my delight for finding it published in Granma. Often when we read a paper or watch the news it seems like they’re describing another planet, while our daily reality is never on the screen or on the printed page. Now, although we continue seeing the same thing, at least we won’t judge the individual reporters as being the problem.
The article by Annerys is not one of those that you read and almost forget before turning the page. I’ve continued thinking about everything that was said in it and I’m still re-reading it days later. I would like to emphasize that I cannot forget her magnificent first sentence: “Providing systematic, truthful and diverse information that allows an approach to reality from all the complex angles that can be offered doesn’t constitute a favor, but a right of the people.”
It’s then though that the questions arise: Are there limits to that right of the people to be informed? Is the right to information real when the immense majority of people cannot access the Internet? Excuse me, in reality Internet access in Cuba is a right of everyone – at least to all those people who have the service on their jobs and the authorization to use it, or have hard currency to buy an Internet card.
But how many people have the luxury of paying 6 CUCs (about $6.50 USD) for an hour of internet service when this equals roughly one-third of the average monthly take-home income?
Therefore, I’ll reiterate once again, the immense majority of Cubans cannot access the Internet. Therefore, is the right to information compatible with the fact that people only have information that’s provided by the government-controlled media that responds to official interests?
Does the right to receive “systematic, truthful and diverse information that allows an approach to reality from all the complex angles that can be offered” include the existence of media that don’t respond to official interests? And what happens if “systematic, truthful and diverse information” — which “constitutes a right of the people” — goes against the official interests?