Cuban Independent Press Grows Despite Censorship / 14ymedio

Cuban independent press has been marked by two opposing phenomena: censorship and growth. (Luz Escobar)
Cuban independent press has been marked by two opposing phenomena: censorship and growth. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio, Havana, 13 October 2016 – The Cuban independent press has been marked by two opposing phenomena: censorship and growth, according to the report on Cuba published by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) on Thursday.

The document prepared for the association made up of representatives from more than 1,300 publications of the Americas by Yoani Sanchez in her role as regional vice president for Cuba for IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, concludes that “despite the material and legal obstacles that limit it, Cuba’s independent press is experiencing a good moment with regards to creativity, diversification and the issues and formal proposals it addresses.” In addition, it notes that the official press has not escaped a certain new wave and has realized, in recent times, an effort to address issues and perspectives closer to the citizenry,” although it has not managed to “free itself from the iron partisan limitations.”

Among the novelties in the independent field El Estornudo (The Sneeze), Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), the magazine OnCuba and the platform El Toque (The Knock) stand out. In the blogosphere there is an expanded variety of topics related to the citizenry, the rights of the LGBT community, sports, fashion and technology. In addition, new technologies allow more and more for non-official media to cross borders and to be reflected in the foreign press, amplifying their message.

However, the enemies to beat remain the same: primarily the lack of connectivity, increasing censorship, and self-censorship, which arises as a consequence of the fear caused by arrests, interrogations or seizures of material. The report details the cases of several detentions of journalists and reporters for independent media, among them the recent arrests of staff members of Periodismo de Barrio when they prepared to report from Guantanamo on the situation of the victims of Hurricane Matthew.

But this year has been mainly characterized by public complaints from journalists who work for official media and who have spoken out against government policies in that media. Among the examples is the letter signed by young journalists published by Vanguardia in which they demand their right to collaborate with other media. “We can not and will not be able to improve Cuban journalist as long as political information is not finally freed of its ties to institutions and official sources,” they argued.

In this context, also cited is the case of José Ramón Ramírez Pantoja, a reporter for Radio Holguin ruling means removed from office for posting on his blog the words of a deputy director of the official Party newspaper Granma on the complex economic situation in Cuba.

In the technological arena, the report addresses the importance of the Weekly Packet as the germ of a future private television channel in Cuba, and the creation of the app offline which helps to fill the gaps in internet connectivity given that, despite the implementation of numerous wifi points across the island, access to the network continues to be very limited and the provision of individual connections in people’s homes continues to be a chimera.