Díaz-Canel: Cuban press ‘sincere but doesn’t always tell the whole truth’

A revealing appraisal of the Cuban press was given by Miguel Díaz-Canel, first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, in an interview published Wednesday (March 19) in Cubaperiodistas.cu, the website of the Union of Cuban Journalists.

An abridged translation by Progreso Weekly follows; for the full text, in Spanish, click here.

Q. What should be the characteristics of a model Cuban press?

A. I’m no specialist, but I think that the Cuban press first has to be very responsible, because of the conditions the country is going through and the manner in which Cuba’s reality is broached in the international press. We cannot fail to see that we are a country on the defensive, besieged, where anything that’s not news elsewhere in the world is news to the world if it happens in Cuba.

It has to be a responsible, valiant press that achieves an adequate balance between a media agenda and a public agenda, that relies on investigation, that is interactive (I refer to a relationship with the reader-public […]) that has moments of debate with the public to learn its dissatisfactions with each medium, because that nourishes both. It has to be a participatory press and, of course, a revolutionary press.

Q. Almost one year after the [Ninth Congress of the Journalists Union], what are the main transformations in the Cuban press that you have noticed?

A. […] The first complaint we have to resolve is the press’ dissatisfaction with the sources, the sources with the press and the people with the sources and the press.

This leads us to work in three directions. One, the source should recognize the need to inform the population with objectivity and therefore the so-called secretiveness should be abolished as a practice.

The second direction is that the press should broach all topics with the sources, with objectivity, for which research and depth are required.

The third direct is that the press should consider the media agenda equal to the public agenda, so the population may see a reflection of the diverse reality our country is living on the mass communications media and therefore identify with those media, which should be credible. […]

On the other hand, we, at the [Communist] Party, have also been evaluating our real relationship with the press. We are facilitating everything that has to do with attention to the press by the Party, but giving more responsibility to the mass communications media. […]

Social communication is, I believe, the most serious of the problems we have. We lack a communicational culture, which we have to build among all of us, and that involves the work of the media. To this end, we have organized a debate in each of the agencies of the Central Administration of the State […] and have found greater receptivity in those agencies.

They’re beginning to have a structure, they’re beginning to formulate strategies of communication, some better, some worse, they’re starting to be more open to the press. Therefore, the so-called secretiveness is beginning to diminish. All that is opening a space for permanent dialogue between the [Journalists Union] and the Party and the mass communications media. […]

We’re doing a weekly analysis of the national media regarding the main problems of quality in what appears every week in the media, using the studies done by the Center of Press Information (CIP) and the Center for Social Research of the ICRT [Cuban Institute for Radio and Television], in a very frank environment.

We observe the quality of the news, of the headlines, and we compare what is said about Cuba in the international press with what is said in the national media, to evaluate what news “voids” we have. This, therefore, leads to better quality.

Q. Which topics are the main ‘news voids’ in the Cuban media?

A. There are several. Follow-ups to the implementation of the Guidelines could have more presence in the media, [follow-ups] to the policies and measures that are being applied; the struggle to achieve more decency and less social indiscipline; an objective defense of the Revolution in the face of the attacks made against us in the social networks; artistic and literary criticism, because practically what we deliver is a description, not a criticism, of the main cultural events. […]

Recently, there was an information void about the North Korean ship, but that was a sensitive topic that we had to broach as we did, by publishing a press statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Q. What are the main dissatisfactions you continue to notice?

A. […] I think that we’ve moved forward in the elimination of vestiges of secretiveness. Now we’re left with self-censorship. […] there is a huge problem with professionalism in the media and with the media editors in terms of preparation for the job. […] For example, there are topics that have been open and the press has been incapable of reflecting them with adequate systematization. That’s the main dissatisfaction. […]

Journalists are not given all the participation they need to analyze and feel like participants in the improvement of their own media. For example, few media have true editorial boards or newsroom boards where people participate in a conscious debate about the problems of the press.

This is much needed because the media have to make sure that everyone participates in the decisions, the design, the editorial line, the profiles, so they can defend them. Otherwise, they’ll just report the news they were sent to get and that’s it. That dynamics is still missing.

Q. Does the Cuban press need more criticism or more information?

A. Both. […] For example, to report that the MartÌ Theater reopened on Feb. 24 is limited information. But to tell everything that happened in that theater is providing information. […]

Criticism has to be objective; therefore, we cannot measure a newspaper because it carries so many critical articles and so many uncritical articles. Every article should have a balance of what’s positive and what’s negative in the topic at hand, therefore a perspective, i.e., the moment of the topic, and if we’re able to deal with it or not.

Nothing is totally good or totally bad. What damages the country so is that a press medium reflects everything in a good light, knowing all the contradictions we have in this country, or that it reflects everything in a bad light, when we also have virtues and achievements. […]

We are in an internal debate to perfect, not to deny. Negation would be dialectic, but we cannot deny the contribution of the press to the Revolution, the company it has kept. We also have to recognize the circumstances in which that press has moved, the ideological, social and economic circumstances. Our press has shortages of material things, too, a result of the country’s situation.

In our press there are no lies. In the international press, there are lies, speculations, manipulation. Our press is sincere; what happens is that sometimes it doesn’t tell all the truth. Sometimes it limits the truth in some topics because it doesn’t go deep enough. But our press is truthful; that’s what gives it credibility.

It creates dissatisfaction because sometimes it has information voids and because sometimes it doesn’t treat problems with total integrity, therefore doesn’t show the whole spectrum that a topic might have. Once all these elements are perfected, that credibility could increase.

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