Friday, July 29, 2016

Cuba Must Decide Between Journalism & Propaganda

Cuba Must Decide Between Journalism & Propaganda
July 28, 2016
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES – A leader of the Communist Youth organization told me she
was a faithful reader of Cartas desde Cuba, clarifying that she does not
always agree with the articles of the site. She was very surprised when
I said that I don't agree with some of the texts either.

"So why publish them?" she asked me and my answer was that I include
what I consider of interest to readers, beyond my point of view on the
matter and even in cases where I think diametrically different.

US Senator Marco Rubio, for example, is a person that I do not identify
with at all. However, we have published many of his statements and
proposals because we believe his projects affect Cubans, both here as
well as immigrants.

A few days ago I wrote a tweet with the phrase "Not even a thousand
manipulations by the national press can prevent Cubans from seeing
reality as it unfolds." There was some commotion on social networks and
some were radicalized.

One reader who goes by "Fidel for Ever", threatened me with expulsion
from the country, "don't forget your immigration status, you are not
Cuban." As he didn't manage to frighten me he extended the threat to my
family, mentioning the name of one of my kids in the best of Mafioso style.

In Cuba the debate on the changes needed takes place in the newsrooms,
in the Journalists Association and anywhere where two communicators meet.
The paradox is that the phrase that unleashed the passions of ultras
wasn't even mine but came from the blog of a journalist from the
official Granma daily online. I reproduced the text because it is part
of the debate that is taking place in the Cuban media.

The next day, an anti-Castro reader criticized us because we published
an opinion of the president of the Cuban Journalists Association,
Antonio Molto, which justifies the work of the official media and
defends the relationship of the Communist Party with the press.

Others were suspect of dark intentions in a report we ran on people
living on the streets of Miami for failing to pay their rent. The Cuban
migration potential towards that city is more than enough to consider it
a topic of interest.

Behind these misunderstandings is the concept of journalism-propaganda,
in which diffusion is given only to the politically correct subjects,
while journalists are pressed not to criticize and encouraged to leave
those who think differently without a voice.

I just watched a Cuban TV program praising the achievements of the sugar
harvest in a province, without saying a word about the disappointing
production in the rest of the country. It's like praising the strength
of a chain mentioning the only link that wasn't broken.

The information policy of Cuba is decided by a small group of officials
who know so little about communication that they have come to develop
the same front page for all newspapers. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
Meanwhile, a friend who arrived to the island, after spending 15 days in
Miami, asked about the situation in Cuba because the TV channels of that
city speak of hunger, impending blackouts and popular uprisings.

The problem facing Cuban journalism –on both sides of the Florida
Straits- goes far beyond censorship, it delves into a concept that makes
the press a tool for politics and the journalists into ideological
soldiers affiliated with one side or the other.

Nor is it an exclusively Cuban problem. Many media in Latin America and
Spain are owned by powerful economic groups and are used to promote
their businesses and demonize politicians who oppose them.

In the US all the mainstream press supported the war against Iraq
knowing that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The
New York Times had the decency to apologize publicly afterwards but that
did not reduce the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

However, the evil of many is the consolation of fools. In addition, Cuba
has a unique position, it has talented journalists, all media are under
state control, and both the population and the government call for a
change in the press.

Those who defend the current state of things "scare" us by saying that
the alternative is the private media, but that's just a lie used to
"outlaw" any initiative. The Constitution actually allows public media
and even the creation of journalist cooperatives.

So why do they keep discussing the same old thing year after year at the
Journalists Association and get nowhere? Why not take some practical
steps? Why not allow a "pilot project" with a particular media? Why not
let the people finance it?

We would find millions of Cubans willing to contribute money out of
their pockets to fund a public media covering their information needs
with communicators that respond to readers and not to a small group of
opaque officials.

Instead, the censors provoke another of their little wars recently
prohibiting journalists from writing on the side for non-state media
programs like El Toque of Radio Nederland, because "it's financed by the
enemy." They are so lost that they didn't know that the program is about
to disappear in a couple months due to a lack of funding.

The truth cannot be found by persecuting journalists in cyberspace. It
would be more useful to create attractive media offering editorial
freedom and a living wage, a place where young people develop an honest
job which they can be proud of.

Source: Cuba Must Decide Between Journalism & Propaganda - Havana -

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