Some Challenges Facing Cuba’s Press

Some Challenges Facing Cuba's Press

September 17, 2012

Esteban Morales*

HAVANA TIMES — Everything seems to indicate that there are now two

presses in Cuba. There's one that some want all of us to read, and

another one that reaches only 10 percent of the population (though

summaries of it are broadcast over "Radio Bemba" ["Radio Lips," or the

grapevine], which himself once said transmits better than

the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television).

Since the time that Raul Castro made that statement, however,

there have now come into existence email and , which are highly

efficient means for circulating information that our press still doesn't

dare to even think about printing.1

The written press, which has two main national newspapers, often

duplicates the news, making it possible to find the same things in both


These are newspapers that people purchase every day with the hope of

seeing major events and especially their concerns reflected in an open,

fresh and frank way – which is to say, what everyone is talking about

and asking on the street.

People ask: What's happening with all this corruption? Whatever became

of the underwater cable that was assured would connect us to

and the world? When will the output of the Cuban system

start reflecting more produce at lower prices? When will we see the

changes in immigration regulations, something that was energetically

promised? When will we actually be able to read the text of the new tax

law? What will happen with the accumulation of negative opinions

concerning the latest regulations? And so on…

This written press seems like something that's not really Cuban. It's

too over-simplified, too secretive, too bland. It has almost nothing to

do with the unique character and nature of Cubans, who laugh even their

own misfortunes.

It's a press that's able to ferret out all the negatives concerning the

United States, sometimes putting news about that country on the front

page when that same information doesn't even take up a tenth of a page

in USA Today, the most popular newspaper in the United States.

There's no doubt that lately we've begun to note that our press is

making an effort, but it's still far from meeting the expectations of

the average citizen. To some extent, this can be seen in the Friday

section of the official Granma newspaper and in a few sporadically

published articles.

Next year's announced congress of the Cuban 's Association

(UPEC) will inevitably have to "grab the bull by the horns" if we really

want to have a press in line with our times.

This would be a press that serves as an effective instrument for

criticism, for improving the economic model and changing people's

collective mentality, which has been requested by the top leadership of

the country.

Nonetheless, despite these modest gains, it's sad to see that our

national newspapers are losing readers. Those who buy them do so almost

by inertia (or because there aren't any alternatives) hoping to someday

find in these dailies what concerns them or what they want to know about

and learn.

Unquestionably, with a press like this, the battles to be waged have

been lost in advance. The reasons for this include the following:

• The public has gotten tired of reading newspapers that don't reflect

our real life situation or what's happening overall.

• The gap between what the media reflects and reality has introduced

skepticism and suspicion.

• People have begun looking around for better alternatives – which is

very dangerous.

• Average citizens are turning to the national radio, which is always

spontaneous, and from there they are accessing foreign broadcasts, some

of which even broadcast in Spanish, with many directed specifically at

Cuba (the worst of which is so-called "Radio Marti").3

• A mindset is being created whereby people seek information on events

in Cuba from sources abroad — news that should be available here —

handing the breaking news and information from the island on a silver

platter to the foreign media.4

• Citizens have become more perceptive of trumped-up stories and the

distortion of information.

• There is a lack of more realistic, democratic, open news coverage that

permanently eliminates secrecy, censorship and old, dogmatic and

apologetic approaches.

• We are missing out on the inclusion of revolutionary Cuban

intellectuals who can reflect more realistic ideas, in addition to open

and intelligent criticism. People are distanced from those who can

confront counterrevolutionary criticism from positions that recognize

our shortcomings, before the enemy throws them in our face and turns

those arguments into arms for conducting subversive diplomacy, something

which is promoted by the policy of "regime change" advocated by the

current US administration.

• We haven't grasped the fact that the enemy's technological superiority

doesn't have to be a disadvantage for us if we wisely use the weapons of

truth, consistency, systematic criticism and the valuable revolutionary

scientific and intellectual potential that's available.

A society that in the middle of an information revolution tries to

control the ears and eyes of its citizens will not survive. Recovering

people's confidence is becoming exceedingly difficult because they are

now reacting to the absence and the poor quality of information. It's

like something that belonging to them or owed to them is being stolen

from them or that power is being used to deny them what's theirs.

This is a feeling that is now dangerously gaining ground among us.

What's more, it's quite legitimate, as even the top leadership of the

country has criticized the press, speaking about its numerous

shortcomings – among them secrecy.

It was the president himself who opened the channels of criticism and

has pushed for the press to follow his call. But there has been no

change as a result, while people continue to wait with increasing

impatience for what still hasn't occurred.

Nonetheless, a significant share of the revolutionary intelligentsia is

finding space on the national intranet and the internet. Though only a

limited number of people have access to this medium, articles and

comments by our intellectuals are being spread across the country

through email, reaching a number of people that's greater than what

might be assumed.

But unfortunately, the internet benefits from that, relaying information

and commentary to Cuba that the country itself should provide [in it media].

That is the damage we're doing with this "overzealous" approach to the

internet, which is more harmful than what the internet itself could do

to us. In order to survive in this world in which we live, it's demanded

that we confront the risks of being in it.

How can we reverse that equation in which our national media are also

beginning to lose face internationally?

The shortcomings and inadequacies of the Cuban press and media also have

negative repercussions abroad, where there's great interest in the

events and the situation in Cuba due to the very concerns raised by

criticisms of the situation on the island and because criticism is now

recognized in official discourse.

Even many foreign friends of Cuba are concerned about what's happening

on the island, but they feel that they don't receive sufficient reliable

information about our circumstances. They realize that the Cuban press

doesn't provide this information and that it is more realistic to learn

about Cuba via the internet, intranet and other alternative media sources.

Various revolutionary and non-revolutionary blogs, as well as online

magazines — such as Espacio Laical, La Ceiba, Observatorio Critico,

Moncada, SPD (Socialismo Participativo y Democratico), Café Fuerte,

Havana Times, La Joven Cuba and others — are moving forward. They are

capturing the attention of readers outside Cuba who are looking for more

objective, daring, critical news, as well as information that is

generally more consistent with the challenges everyone knows the country

is facing.

This information simply isn't provided in the national press, which

usually presents an almost idyllic image of the country, lacking

sufficient critiques, masking difficulties and disagreements, hardly

reflecting our reality and only doing so in a timid, secretive and

restricted fashion.

In this way they prevent our potential friends outside of Cuba from

knowing enough, not only about what our problems are but also the

arguments needed to support us.

This involves a phenomenon that I don't think the national media clearly

perceives, because often those foreign friends suffer from the same

problems we do in Cuba: they defend inflexibility, self-censorship, give

insufficient recognition to what's negative here, serve as apologists

and build solidarity blindly. These are vices that we ourselves, Cuban

revolutionaries, have transmitted from here in Cuba on more than a few


How do we get out of this disinformation quagmire so that defending the

Cuban revolution today is more realistic, more conscious, more in line

with the challenges now facing the country? How do we do this so that

our people can gain trust our press and so that our friends abroad can

be of greater help in confronting the avalanche of counterrevolutionary


These days, counterrevolutionary criticism is undoubtedly more

intelligent and more scientific, since it often relies not on simple

lies, the distortion of events or the exaggeration of our

problems; instead, it takes advantage of our real problems. They present

them in a more sophisticated and more finely manipulated manner, while

searching for discouragement, confusion and apprehension in our solutions.

I think there is only one path for our press to follow to overcome these

situations. As long as our media fails to achieve this alliance,

everyone will is on their, each with their arms (some quite rusty), and

we'll be no more than a horde that is divided by mistrust, dogmatism,


Moreover, we will suffer from the elitism of some who — from their

positions of power — adopt the attitude of "pure" defenders while they

label others to be no more than liberals who want to hand over the job

of defending the revolution to its enemies.


1 There are excellent journalists (like Jorge Gomez Barata, Felix

Sautie, Fernando Ravsberg) whose articles would contribute substantially

to our press; however none of them are welcome there. On more than a few

occasions, when in-depth writings are published here that deal with the

problems of today's world, these are merely "refried" articles

originating from foreign authors, though Cuba has plenty of people

capable of writing about these issues. We are observing a true divorce

between the so-called official press and the nation's intelligentsia.

2 No doubt there's a personality problem between the two newspapers,

which basically affects the youth newspaper (Juventud Rebelde), which

inevitably devotes a great deal of space to repeating news that isn't

relevant to its young readers. They will run what appears in Granma, the

official newspaper of the Party, but very little about the problems of


3 No mention is made here about the phenomenon of the proliferation of

CDs with all types of programs that circulate throughout the domestic

network. This relates to a problem that is similar to that of the

written press but which relates to our TV programming; it is harshly

criticized not because of its lack of resources, but because its lack of


4 On the night of this past September 9, a significant portion of the

country suffered a black out and the national broadcast of Radio Reloj

was unable to inform people what was happening – something that wouldn't

have happened a few years ago.

(*) An authorized Havana Time translation of the original published by

Esteban Morales on his .

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