What Can Journalists Do For Cuba? / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, 20 July 2015 — In 2014 the organization Reporters Without Borders released a list of “100 Heroes of Information.” They are journalists from 65 nations who have denounced crimes against humanity. From 25 to 75 years of age, they report from the most solid democracies to the most authoritarian regimes. They are brave men and women who have suffered gunfire, bombs, and torture in order to show the truth to the world.

Even countries where freedom of expression is respected have produced heroes. Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras displayed to American and British citizens the surveillance methods used by their intelligence services.

Others like Dawit Isaac bore the brunt of the most authoritarian countries in the world. The African journalist has spent over 13 years in the prisons of the dictator Isaias Afeworki in Eritrea, a nation near the Horn of Africa. In 2014 the country ranked last in the World Ranking of Freedom of the Press.

These journalists confront governments as well as the mafias. Many of them have revealed the activities of organized crime in Sicily, Chechnya, Bulgaria, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Those who want to know their names and their stories can read them on the website of Reporters Without Borders. a??

There are also Cubans on this list. They are Angel Santiesteban Prats, punished for his criticism by imprisonment, and Yoani Sánchez for covering social and economic problems in Cuba.

Today we have much independent Cuban media. Thanks to them, we learn the small and concealed news stories, what goes on in every corner of the island. From them we learned of the death of a 14-year-old in a building collapse in central Havana. Media like ICLEP and DiariodeCuba.com delivered us this news on August 27, 2014. And reminded us that the poor condition of the buildings is not just a problem of comfort, but a constant danger to human lives.

Yusnaby Perez’s blog, with a modern and entertaining style, also gives us an incredible x-ray view of life on the streets. This is journalism, the weapon against impotence, against what upsets us. But it also has its critics. David Randall, a journalist with twenty years of experience as an editor and publisher in Europe and Africa says:

“Undoubtedly the history of journalism abounds with sloppy work and bad intentions, but it includes a long series of examples that prove how the great successes of the profession are even more abundant, and are a source of pride.”

These shortcomings that often capture journalism are also the result of what we ask or fail to ask. The stories of Reporters Without Borders show that even democratic countries can have challenges to free expression. And that censorship in authoritarian countries can never block those who decide to seek the truth. Between repressive governments and ruthless mafias, reporters make a way to break the news.

It is not enough for the brave to do their job. We must also reach out to them. If we become citizens who seek the truth like water in the desert, censorship will not have much maneuvering room.

We must encourage good journalism. If we prefer biased news and speculations, the press will have to capitulate to the media show. The news media can only do a bad job if we settle for superficial information.

What good does it do journalists to take risks to discover the truth, showing the facts from every angle and portraying reality to the maximum, if no one is going to read it?

It has always been challenging for Cubans, both outside and inside, to find out the truth, but we also have the means. Whether by going on the internet, watching a foreign channel, or hearing by word of mouth, there are always ways to learn what is happening.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief correspondent, specially assigned to dozens of wars and conflicts, says:

“I firmly believe that we journalists, with our papers and pens, with laptops and satellite connections, cameras and television crews, can make a difference, we can help make the world a better place.”

In their book Why Nations Fail, academics James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu say the media are critical to achieving democracy and therefore economic growth. Elections can sometimes malfunction and politics can be corrupted. But whenever there is a defiant press, the vicious circle can be broken.

Translated by Tomás A.