Cuba’s Docile Press Rebels Against Free Information

Alexander Jiménez (in the center) with members of his team after receiving the Flag of Labor Prowess. (Radio Villa Clara)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 18 July 2018 — Nothing defines the essence of Cuban official journalism better than its own discourse. This was clearly demonstrated with the standing ovation that greeted the speech of Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, at the closing ceremony of the 10th Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) on July 14.

Diaz-Canel heaped praise on an article by a combative hack – one of those who, in the absence of arguments, defends the “system” with slogans from the barricades and insults to the adversary – as an example of the journalism that reflects the “Cuban truth” against those who have been called the “new revolutionaries,” whom he claims are bought with hard currency by foreign powers that seek to subvert Cuba’s political and social order.

Just in case the absolute subordination of the press monopoly to the service of power was not already amply exposed and enshrined at the 10th Congress, state television insisted on returning to the theme, this time presenting the “outstanding” intervention of an unknown ideological commissar, who participated as a delegate (nothing less) from the Ethics and Communication Commission.

Alexander Jiménez is the director of the radio network in Villa Clara province. However, incredible as it seems in these times of global connections and lavish new communications technologies, this supposed information professional cannot find any work in the national press or social networks.

His tenuous professional footprint seems to be limited to his performance as a functionary. On April 8, the collective of workers of the Villa Clara Radio System under his direction – made up of a provincial chain and several local radio stations – received the ‘Banner of Labor Prowess’ for “outstanding work informing people during the scourge of Hurricane Irma and later in the recovery phase.” In other words, he and his subordinates were distinguished with a banner just for doing their job. “Moral stimulus,” is what this type of award is called in Cuba.

But not all Jiménez’s subordinates are deserving of awards, as can be seen from his speech at the UPEC Congress, broadcast on television, which has provoked a lot of comments on social networks. In his speech, the journalist-functionary attacked certain colleagues, “mostly young people who sell their souls to the devil and, for payment in hard currency, contribute their writings to publications aligned with subversion against Cuba.” He adds that those journalists, “little girls and boys” who “until yesterday were docile (…) on occasion are transformed and become real monsters.”

“Those of us who direct press organs sometimes have our hands tied, or lack a legal basis to judge these wage-earners who are paid for subversion against Cuba and its social system, and who believe – because sometimes they do believe it – that they are going to overthrow the Revolution with a five-paragraph newsletter,” Jiménez complains. He goes on to demand that the draft of the new code of ethics for Cuban journalism must include a provision that doesn’t allow “collaboration with media that are hostile, clearly or covertly, to the political and economic order in force in our society.”

With this regulation, says Jiménez, press executives would not feel “bound hand and foot” when it comes to sanctioning “or considering two-faced” those “hostile” journalists who deviate from the government’s official line.

It is clear that for this paradigmatic servant of the ‘holy office’  – and therefore for his bosses in the Palace of the Revolution, the owners of the press monopoly – docility is a quality of (good) journalists.

That imaginary metamorphosis necessarily involves the endless refrain that these journalists are financed by “Cuba’s enemies,” and the hard currency payments they receive far exceed the salaries earned by official journalists. Sometimes the professional zeal of government amanuenses is too much like envy.

To the greatest alarm of the guardians of the old Castroite orthodoxy, those “monsters”– many of them graduates of the journalism schools in Cuban universities, and all born and educated under the sign of Castroism – are not only growing in number, but they dominate the exercise of their profession and (oh, sacrilege!) have the temerity to break the established rules and question reality, including political decisions at the highest level of the country.

Given the activities of the 10th UPEC Congress and the uproar among Castro’s troops, there are those who feel we are witnessing a great demonstration of the omnipotent power and its colossal press apparatus oiling its gears to launch a devastating blow to crush the independent press which is gaining in quality and distribution within the Island.

In reality it is the opposite: we are facing a clear demonstration of weakness; almost a declaration of defeat in another battle anticipated to be lost by the ‘inquisitors’. Because it is a fact that the grayness and stiffness of the official press, with its repertoire of slogans, anniversaries and intangible victories, cannot compete with the freshness and irreverence of the young journalism.

When the president of Cuba, his “docile” favorite yeoman, Manuel Lagarde, or an obscure commissar, such as Alexander Jimenez, launch their barrages of bravado and announce such a disproportionate campaign of harassment against the new Cuban journalism, in reality they are poorly concealing the terror inspired in them by free information, a fear that is also reflected in the terms they use to define their counterparts: mercenaries, traitors and, now, monsters.

Do not underestimate the repressive capacity of those in power, but do not let yourself be impressed by their war cries. It is the bravado of the bully who feels threatened by a strange force he does not understand but that he guesses is superior: that of freedom.


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