Wasting Time and Resources / Fernando Dámaso

The Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), a governmental organization that tries to sell itself as being non-governmental (NGO), has announced the dates for its congress in 2013. Its theme of “a revolutionary journalism in defense of socialism” is unambiguous. We now know with certainty what will be discussed and what will be unanimously approved. They could call off the congress and save both time and resources. For the confraternity that is the UPEC, revolutionary journalism means agreeing with whatever the government decides, supporting it and proclaiming it to the masses, being unconditional in its politics without question or providing any sort of unauthorized criticism, and carrying out orders. This “defense of socialism” thing seems ironic. How do you defend something that has been a failure throughout the entire world, including Cuba? The alternative press and independent journalists don’t count; they aren’t Cuban and belong to another galaxy.

I remember an immigration authority at Havana’s José Martí Airport once stopped a group of passengers who were about to enter the building after descending from the plane. He told them, “Form a queue at the end of this imaginary line,” and pointed to the floor. The passengers looked at each other in astonishment and began grumbling about this utterly absurd proposition. Our “revolutionary journalists” neither look at each other nor grumble. They see all too clearly that the line is real, not imaginary, and that they cannot cross it.

In the much criticized republican past, there were journals and journalists of all political persuasions. Alongside the conservative Diario de La Marina there was the radical (communist) Hoy. Between these were various gradations: El Mundo, Información El País, Excelsior, El Crisol, Mañana, Prensa Libre, Alerta, La Calle, Ataja, Tiempo en Cuba and others. Citizens had access to differing opinions. In accepting those they felt had the most value most based on their own personal beliefs, they were able to adopt new opinions or reinforce those they already held. The press is not a single entity in the service of the powerful, as the public has been led, and continues to be led, to believe.

If it wants to be respected, perhaps the UPEC should commit to a form of journalism that is truly critical (especially as there is so much to be critical about) — one that is responsible, free, that does not seek permission and does not have ideological attachments, that reflects the thoughts and beliefs of different segments of civil society and not just those of the government. To continue playing the game referred to as “unified thought” — something that has never existed, does not exist and never will — is an unfortunate decision.

August 7 2012