Reports from Cuba: The press that disinforms
For Castroist ideologues, the activists in Kiev and the Venezuelan students are fascists, Kim Jong-un doesn’t traffic in weapons with Havana, and Beyoncé never visited the Island.
There is an abysmal gap between everyday reality and the information provided by a clueless official press.
News of the Castro regime’s blatant arms smuggling with North Korea, in violation of the UN embargo against the Pyongyang dynasty, was never reported in Granma, Juventud Rebelde, Workers, or any of the 15 provincial press organs.
To date, the boring and disoriented national media—print, radio and television—have not reported on the space opened for dialogue with the Catholic Church. Or about local news that has had national repercussions, such as the protest in Havana by self-employed workers, or the unusual walk of a nude woman in the city of Camagüey.
They also overlook less controversial topics, such as the visit to Cuba of major leaguers Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin, or celebrities such as Beyoncé and her rapper husband Jay Z.
Nor are they interested in letting their readers or viewers know that Cuban artists and musicians living abroad are visiting the island and performing, such as Isaac Delgado, Descemer Bueno, and Tanya, among others.
Thye are not willing to publish a single article analyzing the insane prices of auto sales or internet services.
On international matters, the old trick is to tell only part of the story. For those who only read the official media and do not have access to other sources, the protesters in Ukraine, Venezuela, and Turkey are terrorists and fascists.
The official Cuban media have never reported that the dictator Kim Jong-un summarily executed his uncle. They have also remained silent about the atrocities taking place in the concentration camps in North Korea. And about the degrading treatment of women in Iran.
Newspaper space is usually filled by low-key commentaries on culture and sports, television program notes, upbeat news about national agricultural production, or the smooth progress of the economic reforms dictated by Raul Castro and his advisers.
Apparently it is considered inappropriate to inform Cubans of the talks between the Cuban-American sugar millionaire Alfonso Fanjul and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Nor is it believed desirable for ordinary people to know that Antonio Castro, son of Fidel Castro, is playing in golf tournaments.
Or that businessmen with bulging wallets recently paid $234,000 for a handcrafted humidor filled with Montecristo cigars at the XVI Festival del Habano, where the most famous guest was British singer Tom Jones.
Local information is governed by inflexible ideologues who presume that behind the vaunted freedom of the press hides a “military operation of the U.S. secret services.”
And they take this seriously. As if it were a matter of national security. So the official journalists are soldiers of information. Disciplined scribes.
For the Talibans of the Communist Party, the internet and social networks are modern means of promoting capitalism from a distance. The new times have caught them without many arguments. They claim to have the truth, but they are afraid to let their citizens see for themselves.
The readings of certain information should be presented by the magnanimous State. They think, and believe, that their naive compatriots are not prepared for, nor sufficiently inoculated against, the propagandistic poison of the world’s media.
Not even Raul Castro has managed to break the stubborn censorship and habitual sluggishness of the official press. For years, Castro talked about turning the press into something credible, entertaining, and appealing. But nothing has changed.
For external consumption—by outsiders interested in Cuba and, above all, two million exiles scattered around the world—they have opened official websites and blogs, trying with their own voice to promote the illusion of an opening.
For internal consumption, the soldiers of the word remain.
Translated by Tomás A.
From Diario de Cuba, 17 March 2014