To Compete in Arguments

Telesur was an initiative of ex-president Hugo Chávez to extend his ideological line to Latin America. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 January 2020 — Just a few days ago, Miguel Díaz-Canel has come out in defense of the Telesur chain and has spoken on the practice of attacking the media. The Cuban president crossed swords on the channel, whose programming began to be partially transmitted in Cuba in 2007 and whose short-term future is going through moments of uncertainty.

“Why do they try to boycott it, why do they try to attack it? Why are they who are the so-called ’defenders’ of the famous and who talk about freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not able to really compete in arguments with that medium?” Diaz-Canel questioned in reference to the recent statements by Juan Guaidó regarding reorganizing the channel.

The proposal of the interim president of Venezuela has caused an avalanche of criticism and accusations from the Island, starting with a strident statement by the official Union of Journalists of Cuba (Upec) and continuing to the demands of the president himself, who has chosen to establish himself as a defender of a plurality of information, in a country where only the circulation of media subordinated to the ruling party is allowed.

Díaz-Canel believes that the content transmitted by the network gives Cubans something to compare “with what they see on social networks” and “with what other media say,” a contrast that in his opinion “is the way in which we have to face these situations.” He then added: “but not from a position of attacking a medium, of throwing unfounded slander on a medium, I believe that this is also perverse, it is provocative, it is dishonest.”

For those who turned on the TV in the middle of the president’s intervention, they must have doubted whether the expected public commitment to respect information freedom on the Island was taking place. Had the time finally come power recognized that citizens have the right to access different news sources, to choose the press they prefer and to have plural publications?

But no, Díaz-Canel was not talking about Cuba, where numerous independent media are blocked, boycotted, their journalists threatened, persecuted, interrogated, detained, stripped of their tools of the trade, ’regulated’ to prevent them from traveling and confined to their own homes so that they cannot cover information. He meant only Telesur.

“We are going to put Latin American content in Telesur and we are going to see who is following people and we are going to see who is following Latin America and not threatening, because we do not threaten the Yankee media or the international media,” Diaz-Canel continued. “We try to generate our content, put out our content, so that people have all the visions, the monopolizing visions, the colonizing visions and the visions that for us are emancipatory and exalting.”

Any of these phrases could be used by the many newspapers, digital magazines and independent publications that have emerged in recent years on the Island, but which unlike Telesur do not have the approval of the Plaza of the Revolution, much less access to national screens that have offered that foreign network more time given to spread propaganda than realities.

When you have a discourse for an external audience and a discourse for an internal audience, contradictions occur that touch the ridiculous. When the freedom of information is used to support a political ally, while the scissors of censorship are sharpened to cut the rights of nationals, it becomes a rhetorical rant, of tragicomedy incongruities.

To accept as valid the rule of “competing in arguments,” which Díaz-Canel calls to respect to save Telesur, would be the end of the press monopoly of the Communist Party of Cuba. Complying with it would lead to allowing within the borders all that is demanded of other governments.

Independent media are ready to accept the challenge of submitting to a comparison between what they do freely and what official media produces under censorship.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.