14ymedio | Mario J. Pentón, Miami, 29 June 2019 — Official journalists will soon receive nearly triple their current salaries, as part of the increase announced by President Miguel Diaz-Canel last Thursday.
During a meeting on his visit to Pinar del Rio, Díaz-Canel gave the example of the recent increase in salaries for members of the journalists’ union, who had a base salary of 385 Cuban pesos a month (15 CUC — roughly the same in dollars) but now will start to earn between 1,100 Cuban pesos (44 CUC) and a little more than 1,300 Cuban pesos (52 CUC) according to their rating. In the same meeting the president boasted of the salary increase for university professors which, in the case of incumbents, will increase to 1,700 pesos per month (68 CUC).
The last rise in the minimum wage was made by the late former president Fidel Castro in 2005, when he brought the minimum wage to 225 pesos a month, about 9 dollars.
“We are very happy, that was something that we had always raised in all the meetings and at long last they have given it to us. We know it’s not what we deserve, but at least it is something,” said a journalist from the Cienfuegos radio network, who requested anonymity because he is prohibited from speaking with the independent press.
“The newsrooms are empty. They [the government] know that if they want to have journalists for propaganda they have to pay more. Most of those who graduated with me have left the country or are with the independent press that pays better,” he added.
The officials who lead Cuba’s Journalists Union are annoyed by the independent press, which thanks to more innovative business schemes, subsidies from international organizations and sponsorships, pays its reporters much better.
“Sometimes I am ashamed that my colleagues talk about a report on farms or factories because there they receive a bag with some products in gratitude from the directors of those places. Journalist should have a decent salary,” lamented the newsman.
With the increase in the number of independent media that publish from the Island, the official press has been increasingly lagging behind in the publication of scoops and reports on reality. Among young people, preferences lean towards sites that lean more to audiovisual journalism or tell about events that the media controlled by the Communist Party usually silence.
The arrival of the web browsing services to mobile phones last December has increased the audience of independent media, which often use applications developed on Android or iOS to reach national readers. Several of these digital sites are blocked on national servers but the use of anonymous proxies and VPN services is common on the island.
“I work in a state radio station but I really make a living providing notes for an information site that is produced in Miami,” a journalism graduate from the class of 1988 told this newspaper.
“None of my colleagues knows that I do this other job, because I sign under a pseudonym but I can say that the new [monthly] salary that I will earn for my official work starting in July is equivalent to what I get paid for two reports of 700 words from the other site.”
This reporter, who also prefers anonymity, said that she feels that “in neither of the two places am I doing the journalism that I would like — here because of censorship and there because it is a frivolous medium for entertainment. But the reality is this is what puts the beans on my table,” explains the reporter.
In June her earnings from the state broadcasters in Cuba were around the equivalent of 38 CUC, whereas her earnings from her reports published from Miami totaled some 400 CUC.
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