Between “Collateral Damage” and Direct Damage”

New technologies have not only facilitated the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, and their disappearance would certainly be an important loss of spaces rigorously attained. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 23 July 2019 — Journalist José Jasán Nieves, general editor of El Toque, is the author of an article published last Sunday in which he exposes his particular vision about the difficulties of the new Cuban journalism in order to survive official pressures and obstacles, while noting that what he considers the Government’s current repressive escalation (though he doesn’t call it that) against the “alternative press” is the “confrontational focus” of Donald Trump’s policy against Cuba.

J.J. Nieves defines as “new journalism” what has emerged in Cuba in the last seven years outside the official press monopoly, endorsed in more than thirty websites which – “supported by the expansion of access to digital technologies, internet, and new forms of financing from the small private sector” – made it possible that “Cuba’s story” to cease to be “bi-chromatic (for or against the socialist model)” and to acquire “the same complexity as (.. .) the society in transition in this archipelago in the Caribbean Sea”.

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has elevated the quality of journalism. Another favorable factor for the rise of this new journalism is what he considers a “climate of greater tolerance towards dissent in the political sphere,” aided by the spirit of detente that led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the US government and Cuba in the Obama era, and “towards emerging forms of civil society” (said to have been promoted by the “updating of the model” speech) and by Raúl Castro’s economic reforms implemented since 2011.

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has increased the quality of journalism

However, despite the fact that the “new journalism” distances itself from the poles or “factions” – “no longer the hell of a repressive dictatorship or the idyllic fantasy of the lighthouse country and guide of the international left” – and that its contents “better satisfy the information needs of the people”, Nieves complains that he is considered by the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, as the new subversion, which is “the clearest confirmation of an approach already applied to him by the security organs of the Cuban State since his first editions.” It seems as if the author naively considers the repressive bodies as an entity independent of the Government.

In keeping with the discourse of the same power that suffocates both the “faction” of those who speak of a repressive dictatorship and the new and conciliatory journalism, for Nieves, the great villain of this story is Donald Trump with his policy of confrontation towards Cuba. It is the American president, and not the lack of political will on the part of the Cuban Government, which “can end at once the permissiveness towards the also termed  “alternative press.”

There are many of us who do independent journalism and do not accept agendas dictated from abroad, nor do we share at all the confrontational policies of Mr. Trump or previous presidents, although we are not remiss when it comes to labeling the Cuban government as “a dictatorial regime”, just as it is, which does not include us in any faction. Instead, to label ourselves as such would be to follow the official agenda of Castroism.

The writing contains some “small” omissions, such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of previous independent journalism in which many activists and professional journalists, like Reinaldo Escobar or Raúl Rivero – which cost the latter jail time during the incursion of the Black Spring – who many years ago assumed the responsibility of describing Cuba as complex and concealed (not necessarily “bi-chromatic”) in a way that never appears in the official media. It also ignores that media – such as 14ymedio or Diario de Cuba, to name two known cases – not only have their access blocked from the Island, but are also not included in “el paquete”*. That is why it is appropriate to remind Nieves that all journalism has the right to exist and that it should belong to Cubans, and not to a select elite of well-intentioned university professionals or an almighty political power to choose what type of press they should taste.

The text contains some “small” omissions such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of independent journalism

 At any rate, new technologies have not only eased the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, whose disappearance would certainly be a significant loss of hard-earned spaces and a very painful setback in terms of civic freedoms, but also the possibility of turning any citizen into a journalist who narrates his own reality, his problems, his demands and aspirations, from his community, a variant of journalism that emerged decades ago around the world and that, with its lights and shadows, has been present in Cuba.

It should be noted, however, that José Jasán Nieves’s article could be an important contribution to a long-held debate around Cuban independent journalism – understood as independent of the most holy State-Party-Government trinity – call it new, alternative, or any denomination, whose existence and character has been questioned by both Tyrians and Trojans, and that, in short, has suffered harassment and repression in its entirety from the same common enemy, which is not exactly imperialism.

If there is one thing all us factions – those who dedicate themselves to the dangerous profession of dissenting or, at least, questioning a reality that depends exclusively on the designs of the caste that holds the political power in Cuba – is that the causes of our prolonged National crisis and the threat of extinction of our free journalism spaces are within Cuba and not in the policies dictated by a foreign power, whatever it may be, as was demonstrated during Obama’s conciliatory agenda or with the worsening pressures from Trump.

If Nieves prefers to assume the current incursion against independent journalism as Trump’s “collateral damage”, and if that makes him feel any better, it will be beneficial.  For my part, as an independent journalist and as a citizen, I choose to continue fighting against the direct damage to all our freedoms, which has been (and continues to be) the one that originates from the Palace of the Revolution.

*El Paquete (the package) is a one terabyte collection of digital material distributed since around 2008 in Cuba’s underground market as a substitute for broadband Internet.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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