Cuba’s Official Press Plans to Participate in Social and Popular Control

The Council of Ministers has 30 days to propose and approve the functions, composition and structure at all levels of the new agency, which will replace the ICRT. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 August 2021 — Cuban authorities want to update their peculiar approach to information transparency. According to their analysis, when they have silenced some uncomfortable news it is because they needed to defend the Revolution from its “enemies,” but times have changed and the strategy must be different, said Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, president of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC).

On Wednesday, the official appeared with other communication leaders, on the State TV Roundtable program to talk again about the creation of the Institute of Information and Social Communication (IICS), which will replace the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT).

“In a country that has had to be constructed in a trench, subjected to permanent harassment, one of the things that has happened to us is that, not a few times, silence was part of the strategy to confront the enemies of the Revolution. But in the era of convergence, with a dramatic change in the way communication works, you can no longer bet on silence,” he said.

The official argued that the word “transparency” may generate doubts among those who remember it from the “Soviet glasnost.” “However, in recent years it has been vindicated, turning it into a word of the Revolution that should describe the type of operation of Cuban public institutions.”

The Institute, he explained, now opens the possibility of building “a press model that has not been built in the world.” Ronquillo Bello lamented that there are those who defend the emergence of a “parallel system in Cuba that has been growing at times with financing from the United States,” making reference to the independent press, which they continue to try to link with the “empire,” whether or not it receives money from Washington.

In his opinion, the private media are not, contrary to the opinions of others, the solution to the problems of journalism in Cuba, which he did not mention at any time, although he did allude to the material difficulties as if they were the most serious of the problems afflicting the state-owned media.

“In discussing with them, I tell them that we can do something that has never been done anywhere in the world: build a press media system that truly becomes part of the mechanisms of social and popular control,” he said in an unusual statement on which he insisted, making it clear that this was not a slip of the tongue.

“[In the Revolution] the press was often part of the mechanisms of political control. Now we have to encourage the press to be part of the mechanisms of social and popular control. This has to be one of the main horizons of the new institute,” he reiterated.

Humberto Juan Fabián Suárez, vice-president of the Cuban Association of Social Communicators, recalled that communication is one of the three basic pillars of government management, and defended the new institute, which will have the rank of a government ministry, about which he revealed some details that did not dispel practical doubts.

The official said that it has taken nine years to create this body and its gestation involved, in addition to journalists, members of associations and official institutions of communicators and journalists and specialists from radio, television and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Social Security and Finance and Prices, as well as the Commission for the Implementation of the guidelines and the Communist Party.

Among the documentation, 82 theses were examined and a comparative law study in communication was carried out, more than 400 people were consulted and 900 opinions were collected, although it is not to be assumed that there was too much diversity in the structuring. “It was not rushed at all,” he added.

Onelio Castillo Corderí, member of the Permanent Working Group for the creation of the IICS, explained that its creation will be accompanied by a body of legislation ranging from a communications law to various decrees and resolutions that will be published in the coming months.

“The Constitution of the Republic defends communication, information and knowledge as citizens’ rights and as a public good of the citizenry,” he said, although in practice Cubans are barred from accessing online any page that the Government considers they should not read, starting with this newspaper or different media from other parts of the world. In addition, in Cuba it is not allowed to practice journalism outside the State and reporters are detained, held in their homes or prevented from traveling for training and attending courses or conferences.

In this context, and when journalism has once again been excluded as an activity that can be exercised outside the State, either as self-employed or in one of the new MSMEs [mipymes = small or medium-sized enterprises], Castillo Corderí argued that the IICS has among its missions “to promote the culture of dialogue and consensus in Cuban society.”

The decision to create the new institute, he insisted, “is a clear expression of the political will to strengthen our democracy based on a higher level of participation of the people in the construction of our economic and social model, in the construction of the destiny for the country we have chosen and the underpinning of the constitutional concept that Cuba is a socialist state governed by the rule of law.”

The Council of Ministers has 30 days to propose and approve the functions, composition and structure at all levels of the new body. Some conclusions can be drawn from the appointments already been made, although it is not expected that the new IICS will bring anything new.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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