14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 August 2016 — Jose Ramirez Pantoja, the journalist recently fired from Holguin Radio, never imagined that some colleagues from the official press would come to his support. This unusual situation has arisen following the statements by the vice president of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), Aixa Hevia, who in an article titled “If It Quacks Like a Duck,” attacked the correspondent, insinuating that he was trying to create a back story so that he could “move to the Miami press.”
Hevia did not leave it there, but also suggested expelling from CubaUruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg for coming to the defense of the ousted journalist from Holguin, which has provoked pandemonium in the “Revolutionary blogosphere.”
After two months of silence, since his internet account was suspended, Ramirez published a new article on his blog Verdadecuba under the title “Where is the ethics of Aixa Hevia?” In the article he not only expresses his appreciation for the solidarity of his colleagues across the island, but castigates the “ugly, low and irresponsible” attitude of UPEC’s vice president.
In early August, the ethics committee of the Association of Official Journalists expelled Ramirez Pantoja from his job and deprived him of the right to exercise his profession. His sin: having published the words of the deputy director of the official Party newspaper Granma on his personal blog.
“ ‘If it quacks like a duck…’* my grandmother used to say, when behind certain events the real intentions were visible,” Hevia wrote in reference to Jose Ramirez, insinuating later that this was how a journalist sought to “cross over” to the Miami media.
“The accusation launched against me in this venomous and repulsive commentary by the first vice president of UPEC is ugly, low and irresponsible,” responded Ramirez, who in a conversation with 14ymedio explained that he was unaware of the impact of that had been generated by the measure taken against him. “Once I was expelled from the media they cut off my internet access. Thanks to a friend I heard about what was happening,” he said.
According to Ramirez, many colleagues in the profession have openly supported his cause. “The profession has shown a lot of solidarity, especially in other parts of the country. In Holguin there are no comments for or against it because the actions taken have made the journalists afraid.”
In this Friday’s publication, Ramirez cited Arnaldo Mirabal Hernández, from the newspaper Girón, in Matanzas, who said that the fact that “perhaps tomorrow Pantojo will show up in some other media, whether in Florida or on Cochinchina [Vietnam], does not mean that he was not unjustly and arbitrarily expelled from the media, and that we of UPEC, far from defending him, we injure him.”
For the journalist from Holguin this experience has opened his eyes to the need for another kind of journalism on the island, “more serious, closer to the people, to people’s needs, to the problems that affect individuals.”
With regards to his case, Ramirez explains that he is confident that justice will finally triumph and everyone’s interests would become clear. “If the court rules against me, I will look for another job. I will work in something, even if it is not journalism, but I don’t know how I will make a living. If the court rules in my favor, even then I don’t know what I will do.”
Ramirez says it is impossible to consider Hevia’s declarations as something separate from the journalists’ organization. “When they sanctioned me they told me that even though the blog where I published Karina Marron’s words was personal, I was still a Radio Holguin journalist and so the same responsibility applies to Hevia,” he added.
According to the journalist, Hevia’s intentions are clear: to prejudge the National Ethics Committee that is considering his case. “She is not just any journalist, behind all of this that she wrote are very bad intentions.”
Karina Marron, deputy director of the official newspaper Granma has not commented on what happened with Ramirez Pantoja.
Fernando Ravsberg published an article entitled “Journalists, Bad News And Expulsions,” in which he claims that the campaign against his blog, Cartas desde Cuba, “is going to extremes.” Although he affirms that it is not about a personal matter, he regrets that “the extremists spend years trying to stop the development of the new journalism that is being born, including within the official media.”
*Translator’s note: The original expression in Cuban Spanish is: If it is green and spiky it’s a soursop.