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A Disappointing And Unfair Report

A Disappointing And Unfair Report / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, 30 September 2016 — The most recent report
by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on the state of journalism
in Cuba is, more than disappointing, worrisome. It is not that its
authors are uninformed about the Cuban reality. Rather, they have
manipulated the information at their disposal so as to emphasize—at the
expense of traditional independent journalism, whose presence is
concealed—that journalism which is done on the Island more or less
outside of state control. However, the sector to which they devote so
much attention is not really quite so outside of that domination as the
authors seem to wholeheartedly believe; either they are too naïve or too
optimistic about the situation of journalists who work under the
conditions of a dictatorship.

This report reinforces a tendency which could be seen emerging in recent
months: that of obscuring and making obsolete the journalism that is
most critical of the regime so as to present the pro-government bloggers
and journalists who work in foreign outlets or alternative media of
recent vintage—On Cuba, Periodismo de Barrio, El Estornudo, El
Toque, Progreso Semanal, La Joven Cuba—as the new protagonists of a free
journalism on the Island.

And I was calling this worrisome because this type of analyses, arising
from who knows where, which try to make the case that Cuba is changing
by giant steps in rhythm with the Raulist reforms, turn into a type of
“trending topics,” become viral, and are later unstoppable.

The report obviates the fact that the independent journalism that has
obtained in Cuba since the first half of the 1990s, and which ever since
then has had to endure repression pure and simple, and which brought to
light the prohibitions, and enabled the very existence of those
alternative media whose collaborators are set on clarifying that they
are not dissidents, complaining about the scoldings and warnings they
receive, as if they were wayward sheep, from government bigwigs.

Regarding journalism which is critical of the regime, the report makes
sole* reference to 14ymedio, but praises its middle-of-the-road tone.
Lacking this tone, Primavera Digital, for example, is ignored, even
though it continues to come out every Thursday on the internet despite
the fact that it has not received a single cent of financing for more
than two years. By the way, when 14ymedio started, Primavera Digital had
already been around for more than six years—a fact that does not prevent
the repeated assertion, mantra-like, that 14ymedio “was the first
independent news outlet in Cuba.”

It is laudable that these young communicators from the alternative media
have appeared, speaking of a Cuba more like the real one than what is
portrayed by the official media. There are excellent ones, such as
Elaine Díaz, or the team at El Estornudo with its literary
journalism—and even Harold Cárdenas, why not? Despite his pretensions of
“saving the Revolution” and making himself out to be more socialist than
Marx and Engels combined. But when speaking of quality in the field of
the independents, I have to say that it is the dissidents who have for
many years now been incomparably plying their trade—journalists such as
Miriam Celaya, Tania Díaz Castro, Iván García, Ernesto Pérez Chang, Juan
González Febles, Víctor Manuel Domínguez, Jorge Olivera, among others.

More than unfair, the angle the CPJ report takes in characterizing TV
and Radio Martí as “mostly irrelevant” is insulting. It would be
interesting to know, keeping in mind the powerful interference of their
signal and the blockage of their web site in Cuba, how TV and Radio
Martí might increase their audience and have greater relevance compared
to, let us say, Granma or Radio Rebelde. However, even this would not be
enough for the CPJ, which lumps the official press with Radio and TV
Martí insofar as they both “have become echo chambers for ideologues at
both extremes of the political spectrum. As they are currently
structured, neither is capable of providing the type of transformative
journalism that could help to achieve the changes longed-for by the
majority of Cubans.”

Bearing in mind that this section of the report was written by Ernesto
Londoño, a journalist who when it comes to Cuba sees only what he wants
to see and make seen (remember those editorials in The New York Times
that heralded 17D?*), I believe I understand the changes to which he is
referring. The problem is that these are not exactly the changes that
are desired by the majority of Cubans, who desperately aspire to others
of much greater significance.

Neither is it just for the report to not acknowledge the relevance of
such outlets as CubaNet—not that it is blocked in Cuba occasionally, but
rather that it was occasionally not blocked for almost a year. Since a
few weeks ago it has begun being blocked again (as has Diario de Cuba),
several of its journalists have been arrested, and the political police
have confiscated their equipment. It would be interesting to know which
formula CubaNet could employ to be in Havana the same way that On Cuba
is. I say this because both outlets are based in the United States and
the journalists who contribute to them are Cubans who live on the Island.

The CPJ’s concern for Cuban journalists is all well and good, but it
should be for all, equally—the official and semi-official ones (it is
often hard to tell them apart), and those who are lately turning the
screws even more—but also for the independents, those truly critical
ones, those who do not remain on the surface or who try to hide the fact
that they definitively have gotten out from the “innards” of the
Revolution: those who, in the CPJ’s report, have been diminished, or
simply ignored.

About the Author

Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) is a journalist in Cuba currently
visiting the United States. Cino has worked as a professor of English,
in construction, and in agriculture. He entered the field of independent
journalism in 1998. Between 2002 and Spring 2003, Cino was a member of
the reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the
online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular
contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino
dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is
passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.

See also: Committee to Protect Journalists Invites Journalists inCuba to
“Cross the Red Lines”

**Translator’s note: As Americans say “9-11” instead of September 11,
2001, Cubans say “17D” instead of 17 December 2014, the day Barack Obama
and Raul Castro jointly announced the restoration of relations between
the United States and Cuba.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: A Disappointing And Unfair Report / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez –
Translating Cuba –

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