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Cuba – Journalists, That’s All

Cuba: Journalists, That’s All / Iván García

Iván García, 25 October 2016 — Erasmo Calzadilla, a columnist for the
Havana Times digital newspaper, is a controversial chap who listens to
opposing arguments but but hangs on doggedly to his own opinions.

In a forum on Cuban journalism, organised by the IWPR (Institute for War
and Peace Reporting) in Miami, Calzadilla ran into Luis Cino, an openly
anti-Castro reporter, who lives very near to his house, in the the
Eléctrico neighbourhood in south Havana.

In the panel discussion groups they came together with different
political opinions, but united by the same aim — to improve journalism
in a country where the government tries to transform it into an exercise
in loyalty and bending the knee.

The IWPR forum was a complete success, as much as the Cuba Internet
Freedom conference was, which took place the week before, also in Miami,
and which was attended by reporters, bloggers and communicators from the

Nothing new was said they nobody knew before at the two events. But it
is always good to point to the closed and locked doors which exist in
Cuba in order to exercise free expression and write away from state

Elaine Díaz is a journalist of the people and former professor of the
Communication Faculty of the University of Havana, and now Director
of Periodismo de Barrio (Neighbourhood Journalism), a freelance project
which tries to publicise the thousand and one environmental problems
suffered by Cubans living in remote communities. In the IWPR forum she
summed up the discussion about independent and alternative journalism in
one phrase, coined by ex-official journalists: “Journalism is
journalism, and that’s all.”

Elaine, along with Carla Gloria Colomé, reporter for El Estornudo (the
Sneeze), a nearly-new digital medium on the internet with an
entertaining and relaxed angle on the national reality, and Marita Pérez
Díaz, the editor of the digital On Cuba Magazine, goes for refined
reporting, with light literary touches, when she comes to describing the
daily life of ordinary Cubans.

There is also talent on the other side of the street. Men and women born
in different provinces, seasoned reporters from the barricades, with
experience of reporting from the streets and writing op-eds. There were
Ernesto Pérez Chang, Regina Coyula and Augusto César San Martín,
politely greeting each other.

Standing on the periphery of the media they were representing, the
participants passionately defended their points of view and journalistic
priorities. At the end of the debates, they chatted, took photos and
talked about their future projects.

A newspaper column pointing out the repressive nature of the Castro
brothers’ regime, can be as effective as an article or report written in
the east of the island, particularly following the passage of Hurricane
Matthew through Baracoa, Imías and Maisí, among other towns in Guantánamo.

Taking their different routes, each one transmits a message there and
back. Cuba needs to change, depoliticising differences of judgement,
accepting the rules of democracy, and respecting freedom of expression.

Of course, it isn’t a perfect objective, particularly when we look at
the Latin American panorama with its dysfunctional “democracies”,
galloping corruption, and governments coming and going, plundering
public funds, and where democracy is sometimes a dirty word. It seems to
me that one way or another the reporters present at the IWPR forum and
at the Cuba Internet Freedom conference, were agreed about respect for

Apart from the participation of prestigious journalists such as Verónica
Calderón, who writes in Spanish in The New York Times, and the editor of
Political Animal, who always provide interesting material for Cuban
reporters, the most important thing, in terms of the meeting supported
by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, was different
writers getting together under the same roof, without any hysterics, or
anyone being verbally attacked or being kicked out.

Nothing like the government’s stance of physical attacks or intolerant
comments to those in opposition or reporters who speak out. Right now,
there are bad times ahead for the profession in Cuba.

Opinion pieces from reporters writing under orders, and official
ventriloquists, paint a dismal picture. They have gone back to frenzied
attacks, some of them directed at colleagues from the state press, just
because of a wish to depict Cuba in flesh and blood.

There are even reporters who have preferred to abandon their calling,
before they become conspirators in carrying out their work in a way
which they would find uncomfortable. That is what Yarislay García
Montero did, who is now selling coffee and croquettes in Matanzas, where
he was born. “Media analysis was going off in one direction while real
life was going off in another. I think our journalism is merely
partisan, working in an infantile manner, avoiding any conflict, in
spite of the quantity of it which occurs on the street”, he says on the
El Toque website.

The spiral of threats, malicious lies and repressive methods can put off
many journalists from reporting the national reality with all its
nuances. In a system like the Cuban one, the word is mightier than the
bullet. That is why the regime is trying to silence them.

Translated by GH

Source: Cuba: Journalists, That’s All / Iván García – Translating Cuba –

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