Saturday, August 31, 2013

UPEC and the Freedom of the Press

UPEC and the Freedom of the Press / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on August 30, 2013

The few expectations generated by the Ninth Congress of the Union of
Journalists and Writers of Cuba ( UPEC ), held last weekend, ended in
frustration. The changes that demand journalism plays an effective role
in social transformations were conspicuous by their absence. The
conclave ignored the issue of press freedom, a vital issue to delve into
the causes of the current crisis and suggest possible solutions,
although Cuba has a rich history in this area.

The Camaguey national hero Ignacio Agramonte, in defending his thesis in
law said: The right to think freely corresponds to the freedom of
discussion, of doubt, of opinion, as phases or directions of that.

The press in Cuba was inaugurated with Papel Periodico (Newsprint) in
Havana in 1790; it disseminated the accord reached with the Pact of
Zanjón of 1878, thanks to which Juan Gualberto Gomez won the legal
process against the colonial authorities which allowed the public
disclosure of the ideas of those supporting independence. It was
multiplied during the Republic: Diario de La Marina, Bohemia, El País,
El Mundo, Alerta, Noticias de Hoy, La Calle, Prensa Libre, Carteles and
Vanidades, to cite just ten. In 1930 there were 61 radio stations, a
number that placed Cuba 4th worldwide; and as for television, in 1950,
almost immediately after the United States, Television Radio Union
Channel 4, the third television station in Latin America, followed the
same year by Channel 6.

Thanks to the media, from the colony to the Republic , the debate of
ideas reached such importance that it is impossible to explain any event
in our history without considering the role of press freedom. The best
evidence was the allegation of Dr. Fidel Castro, known as History Will
Absolve Me, in which he said: Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time
there was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a
President, a Congress and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble,
associate, speak and write with complete freedom. The people were not
satisfied with the government, but the people could change it… Public
opinion was respected and heeded and all problems of common interest
were freely discussed. There were political parties, hours of doctrine
on radio, debate programs on television, public meetings…"

The Russian historian, sociologist and politician Pavel Milyukov, in an
article entitled In defense of the word, defined the press as the finest
and most perfect expression of socio-psychological forms of interaction;
he explained that the rules of relationship between man and society
constitute the core of human rights and freedom of the press is the only
civil liberty can guarantee all the others.

If, from the ideas expressed, we accept that press freedom is an
indispensable factor for social development, any action to preclude it,
can only be described as an act against the development of the country
and the dignity of the people.

Yes, the nation really is everyone, Communists or not, revolutionaries
or not, intellectuals or not, everyone has the right to think, express
and disseminate their ideas freely, as active subjects in national
issues. The opposite is exclusion, totalitarianism or apartheid. So in
the age of the newest information technologies and communications, any
restrictions on press freedom in a country with such a rich tradition of
freedom are inadmissible.

Suffice it to recall that in difficult years like 1947, 1950 and the day
after the assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, Noticias de Hoy (News
of Today), organ of the then Communist Party (People's Socialist Party)
was shut down. However, time and again, thanks to the so-called freedom
of the "bourgeois" press, the communists, supported by much of the
existing press, demanded that they be re-opened and succeeded, even
though Noticias de Hoy advocated class struggle to overthrow the ruling

However — returning to the Cuban of today — the member of the Politburo,
Miguel Diaz-Canel, at the closing ceremony of UPEC, suggested that what
is needed to feed the desire to improve the press and make it more
virtuous press is dialogue. That is, the official press is virtuous and
those virtues, in his words, lie in having denounced the imperialist
campaigns of internal and external enemies, so it is able and has as its
mission to contribute to the achievement of a prosperous and sustainable
socialism. We need to support — said Diaz-Canel — a set of principles
for the Cuban press, extracted from the thoughts of José Martí and Fidel.

The question to Diaz-Canel is if what Fidel said about civil society and
citizens' freedoms during the Moncada trial retains its value, and with
respect to Martí it is good to remember the central idea that he
presented on the Third Anniversary of the Cuban Revolutionary Party: A
people is composition of many wills, vile or pure, frank and grim,
hindered by shyness or precipitated by ignorance.

Several journalists from the official press praised the subordination of
the press for the purpose of PCC, as in the case of Oscar Sánchez Serra,
in his article "The Congress of those we see, hear and read," published
in Granma on 15 July, that posited that the journalist is a builder of

But the person who more clearly summarized the praises of the
subordination of the official press to the PCC was Victor Joaquin
Ortega, who in a short editorial appeared in the weekly Tribuna de La
Habana, Sunday, 14 July, wrote: "We are the weapon of the Communist
Party of Cuba, the only one we need for the struggle, the son of the
dignity and creative line of the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded and
led by the Apostle [José Martí]."

These and other similar proposals demonstrate that the journalism of
UPEC is the journalism of a political party and of a specific ideology,
so that it cannot define itself as representative of the Cuban press in
general, whose natural plurality extends beyond the communist ideas.

The official press sustains itself on the base of restrictions on the
freedom of the press, it as not — as Jorge Barata expressed it well in a
dossier on the subject published in Lay Space — plural, nor open, so it
is prevented from speaking in the name of Cuban society in total. The
PCC defines it politics, based on the limits established in the Cultural
Congress of 1961: Within the Revolution everything. Against the
Revolution nothing, a limit that should begin by defining what a
revolution is and then demonstrating that there is a revolution in Cuba.

The exclusion is not only unjust and unacceptable, but unreal, because
the new technologies prevent it. Another press has emerged, parallel and
coexisting with the official press. Lay Space, Coexistence, Critical
Observatory, Voices, the SPD Bulletin, Cuba Spring and dozens of blogs
and websites that do not respond to the PCC, whose importance lies in
the decision to participate, without permission, from differing views on
the problems of the nation. An alternative journalism, independent,
citizen and participatory, reflecting realities ignored by the official
press and complying with the requirements of traditional journalism and
includes others which are possible with the new technologies, despite
the obstacles represented by the lack of freedom of the press.

From Diario de Cuba

2 July 2013

Source: "UPEC and the Freedom of the Press / Dimas Castellanos |
Translating Cuba" -

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