Cuba’s Independent Press Defeats the Regime’s Journalism

These last ten years have been a great loss for the dictatorship, whose moral bankruptcy has been exposed by the independent media.

The Cuban journalist became ‘mediatized’ and morphed into a spokesperson for official slogans, like Froilán Arencibia / Cuban Television

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Miami, 24 May 2024 — Castro’s populism, as soon as it came to power, broke the numerous fundamental components of a free society, among them the right to life and to freedom of expression and information.

Parallel to the executions, the newspapers accused of being close to the deposed regime of Fulgencio Batista — Alerta, Pueblo, Ataja and Tiempo — were looted and expropriated. They were then handed over to supporters of the Castros to become spokespersons for the new oficialismo, as in the cases of Combate y Revolución, the latter under the command of Carlos Franqui, with its six-inch headlines demanding al paredón (‘to the [execution] wall’).

Twelve months later, on January 25, editions of the Diario de la Marina, copies of the Prensa Libre newspapers, and the magazines Life, Times, and Selections of Reader’s Digest were burned in the Cuban capital. In May, with there no longer being a free press in Cuba, an event took place that showed the degree of servility of a sector of society, which ordered the symbolic burial of the Diario de la Marina, dean of the national press.

In Cuba, not only was freedom of the press eliminated, but the media that honored it were extinguished. No republican newspaper survived Castroism, neither in name nor in informative quality.

No republican newspaper survived Castroism, neither in name nor in informative quality

The information media – press, radio and television – were placed at the service of tyranny, becoming a reflection of the pharaonic dreams of the Castro brothers and transmitters of aberrant government slogans.

Journalism became – sometimes with the complicit participation of many communicators, due to self-censorship or their dedication to the regime – an objective to be destroyed in order to impose the totalitarian system in gestation with greater impunity.

Because of these painful realities, I consider it important to highlight the work carried out by Cuban independent journalists, who for decades – and with limited means – have risked their lives and precarious freedoms to report on the institutional violation of citizens’ rights. They have been willing to confront the criminal actions of Castro’s absolutism, as the newspaper 14ymedio has done over the last 10 years.

Cuban independent journalists and the few media outlets that have served in this task during these long six decades have carved out a niche of honor, both for the courage shown to endure repression and for the quality and fairness of their reporting.

For decades, only doctrinal journalism existed on the Island, absent of any criticism or questioning of government action; closed to any information or analysis that the authority could consider an attack on its interests.

For decades, on the Island there was only doctrinal journalism, absent of any criticism or questioning of government of government action

The Cuban journalist was ‘mediatized’. He became a spokesperson for official slogans. He became a singer of achievements – real or supposed – of the ruling class. His judgment was subject to political correctness. The information, the story of an event, became a chronicle of what was convenient for the authority and for the journalist who strove not to be repressed and to keep his job before a single owner: the party-state.

This situation, which was evolving into a positive change, took a radical turn when 14ymedio came to light with extreme modesty. Many of us did not realize this milestone that occurred within Cuba at a time when the country began a process of readjustment as a consequence of the exhaustion of totalitarianism.

These last 10 years have been a time of great loss for the dictatorship. It is true that they still hold power, but they are in complete moral and material bankruptcy.

Transitioning from the charismatic totalitarianism of Fidel Castro to the military absolutism of Raúl and, finally, to the bureaucratic totalitarianism represented and led by the inept Miguel Diaz-Canel have left a contrastable evidence: the regime finds itself at a crossroads that can be deadly to its survival.

This decade within the darkness reveals lights of change. The population has shown its disenchantment in the most important popular protests since January 1, 1959; the prisons incarcerate more than 1,000 pro-democracy activists; and the regime intends to reinvent itself by establishing economic practices contrary to its essence. These events have been fittingly covered by 14ymedio and other independent journalists.

From a distance, but with admiration and respect, on this anniversary of 14ymedio, I dedicate this phrase by Jose Martí that accurately reflects my feelings: “Only those who know about journalism and the cost of selflessness can truly estimate the energy, the tenacity, the sacrifices, the prudence, the strength of character revealed by the appearance of an honest and free newspaper.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.