14ymedio, Havana, October 14, 2019 — When Cubacron, a competition to award the Island’s best reporters held by the Press and Society Institute (IPYS), was announced this summer, nobody could have suspected that it would unleash a storm in the autumn over the inclusion of several pieces published by the Cuban official press in the list of finalists.
On October 1, IPYS made public the list of those who were eligible for the prize, which will be awarded during the next Latin American Conference of Journalism and Investigation (Colpin) in Mexico, from November 7-10. Among them were two pieces from the official press, For God’s sake, when will nitrazepam come? by Dayamis Sotolongo for Escambray, which is published in Sancti Spiritus, and Afterwards don’t blame the river, by Haydee León, for Juventud Rebelde. The other selections belong to independent media outlets such as Periodismo de Barrio, El Toque, and El Estornudo.
Far from understanding it as a pluralistic prize, the inclusion of the two state-controlled media outlets on the list has profoundly disturbed the government. Not only have the journalists rejected the nomination, but the Journalists’ Union of Cuba (UPEC), safeguarded by Díaz-Canel himself, has unleashed war against IPYS, which it has accused of a “new campaign against the Cuban public system” which “is printed with a counterrevolutionary political seal.”
UPEC made public on Saturday a statement in which it describes IPYS as being “linked to anti-Government political campaigns and progressive organizations in Latin America, particularly obsessed with lines of attack on the ’Bolivarian’ Revolution,” that is on the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
The labor organization identifies as donors of the institute the Organization of American States (OAS), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States, and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF), and dedicates a paragraph to pointing out the “dark” activities that, in its opinion, they all carry out, from the support of Juan Guaidó in Venezuela to the promotion of the Arab Spring.
For those reasons, it rejects what it considers to be a use of Cuban pro-government journalists by selecting them for a prize from an organization that it considers to have “hands stained with blood” and which “uses the rhetoric of freedom of expression with ideological ends and as a political battering ram.”
Additionally, UPEC believes that the rest of the media outlets chosen by IPYS have “an openly anti-socialist editorial line aligned with Washington politicians against the Cuban Government.”
“The Journalists’ Union of Cuba energetically denounces this manipulation and reaffirms that the most important thing for our organization is to persist with our project of transforming the public media system, for more socialism and more Revolution,” it adds.
The declaration was immediately backed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who didn’t miss the opportunity in his brief tweet of support to mark the line between “our” journalists and those who are not.
“Not NED, nor Soros, nor OAS: Declaration of the Journalists’ Union of Cuba. A dignified statement, an expression of the conviction and patriotism of our journalists against manipulation and interference. #WeAreCuba #WeAreContinuity,” the leader wrote.
This Sunday, one day after the Cuban government’s statement, IPYS entered into the controversy, explaining that the nominations for the prize were made by a selection committee choosing among reporters who presented their candidacy and those who had not.
“The panel of judges, made up of eminent chroniclers, appreciates the journalistic quality of the stories,” says the institute, which denies that any of its donors influences its mission, as UPEC charges. The journalists who made up the team tasked with deciding were Cristián Alarcón, Marcela Turati, and Julio Villanueva.
“The internet, fortunately, allows Cuban journalists to have their own idea of the role of IPYS as a promoter of independent journalism and quality. It also allows them to clarify if the aforementioned pronouncements are products of the facts or of hallucinations,” ends the statement.
The journalist Dayamis Sotolongo Rojas, a finalist for her reporting published in Escambray, has expressed her disgust over the situation as she believes that, given that she never put herself forward, she shouldn’t have been included. “I’m not selling my soul to the devil; they can go to…” said the reporter in the government media outlet at which she works.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
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