Needed: A new way to practice journalism in Cuba

By Alexei Padilla

Needed: A new way to practice journalism in Cuba-Alexei PadillaFrom the blog La Chiringa de Cuba (The Cuban kite)

Some days ago, while riding a bus home, I heard someone ask a young man if he wanted a copy of Granma to read on the way. The man, about 20, answered: “What for? In the newspaper everything is wonderful, while everything around us is going down the tube.”

Ever since Fidel Castro addressed Cuban intellectuals and artists in June 1961, the phrase “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing,” has been the leitmotif of innumerable acts of censorship, injustice and justification of deeds and behaviors that are totally illogical and counterproductive.

The erroneous interpretation of the words of the leader of the revolution, along with the importation of paradigms from the cold Eastern Europe and other factors, has had a devastating effect on the Cuban press, which is facing a credibility crisis, especially among the youngest people.

To those of us who study communications, it is not difficult to observe in our barrios, workplaces and social centers the poor impact that the Cuban press has on young people. For example, I was a faithful reader of magazines like Zunzún, Pionero and foreign publications like Sputnik and Misha.

Today, the habit of systematic reading among young people and teenagers is decreasing. The island’s means of communication continue to rely on a worn-out formula and – since Liborio pays for everything – what matters if people read them or not. What does it matter if they believe them or not!

The Cuban president himself has harshly criticized the ineffectiveness of the national press. However, the creation of a law that regulates the activities in that sector and the access to information has been debated for years without a solution.

The premeditated myopia of the media and the superficiality of some commentators on NTV [National News of Cuban TV] make it clear that the commitment of the editorial policies is not with the CPC [Communist Party of Cuba], or the Revolution by the people and for the people but with the bureaucratic class, which occupies desks in every sector of the nation. 

We can criticize the street vendor who works legally but overcharges for the food he sells. The same applies to the manager of a farmers’ market. But why can’t we ask a functionary at the Agriculture Ministry, which deals with the distribution of potatoes, to give explanations to the public? In Cuba, it’s almost always the communicators who, quoting the words of the functionaries, face the population and shield the incompetence of the latter.
The false concept that saying that the hallways at Joaquín Albarrán Hospital are dirty constitutes an insult to the health-care system is absurd and only leads to the loss of janitorial workers assigned to that hospital by the Health Ministry. It is also absurd because everybody can see that. Are they worrying about what the people in Miami might say if the complaint is broadcast on TV?

Similar stories are heard throughout the island but few are published in the press because stories like that offend many personages who wear guayaberas or plaid shirts.

It is sad that, amid an economic battle that is being won despite the obstacles inside and outside the island, the media lack the materials that – with the quality of Gladys Rubio’s reports on NTV – illustrate the rights and wrongs of the changes being made.

The press we now have can only guarantee the formation of young readers who are apathetic to their commitment to the Motherland, who are superficial, frivolous and willing to exchange an entire history of struggle for two or three crumbs of capitalism.

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