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DIARIO DE CUBA: An Inside Look

Open House. On our tenth anniversary, we go behind the scenes at the DDC and chat with some of the people associated with it.

10th anniversary of Diario de Cuba.
10th anniversary of Diario de Cuba. DDC

Pablo Díaz Espí, Director

The launch of DIARIO DE CUBA came about at a time before the collaborative Web and the current development of mobile technologies; that is, prior to social media, smartphones, and many other elements that today we consider indispensable in the world of communication. A time, therefore, of a greater information blockage in the country. In these ten years, the scenario has changed, radically. The regime continues to wield hegemonic control over information on the Island, but it no longer has the monopoly it once did.

For me, among the DDCs greatest achievements is having contributing to eroding that wall. And not only in Cuba. At the Latin American level too, we have changed perceptions of what many still call "Cuban Revolution." Today the top media and the most important organizations in the region are more aware, and increasingly condemn the lack of freedoms in Cuba.

An example of this progress, this wearing down of the wall, was the recognition received by DIARIO DE CUBA a few weeks ago at the Latin American Investigative Journalism Congress, where, for the first time, a story by Cuban journalists received an award.

In terms of our specific work, I especially value our constancy, the fact that we have been reporting for a decade, every day, non-stop, about what is happening in Cuba. It is true that hammering a stone in this way is exhausting, and sometimes it makes you think: "Why didn't we consider making a weekly or a monthly publication?! Our lives would be a lot less hectic.” But then there is the reward of its daily influence, the readers' gratitude, and that spurs you to keep going.

The challenges are many, because it is not enough to transmit information. Rather, it is about raising awareness, about citizenship. We must keep up with the technology, evade censorship, and reach more Cubans. But we should not become overwhelmed. We just have to move forward, step by step, and, in private, laugh at ourselves, which we do.

Adriana Zamora, journalist recently exiled in Holland

For me, working with DIARIO DE CUBA is an exercise in freedom, because it has allowed me to address issues of the Cuban reality that had always worried me, but that, in other national media, are censored. Thanks to my work I have been able to say what I think, even when I lived in a country where having my own opinion was a crime, and I have applied this not just to journalism, but in my life. Finally, what has enriched me most is the opportunity to lend my voice to those Cubans who want to tell their stories, but do not have the means to do so, or anyone to listen to them.

As for the repression against journalists, I think it will increase as the situation worsens for the Government. Since the Government of Cuba is not interested in fixing the country's problems, but rather hiding them, its main enemy will always be those journalists who tell the truths that it wants to deny. This is why the situation of independent journalists in Cuba has been getting tougher in recent times.

Journalist in Cuba

For me, working at DIARIO DE CUBA has been a great school, a permanent challenge, with a lot of adrenaline and daily learning. Knowing where the news is, and going after it, despite all the risks involved, has been one of the great lessons that this digital newspaper has taught me, and that leaves an impression on you for a lifetime. Being a journalist in Cuba is risky and, at the same time, exhilarating,  it involves taking the paper's message to many people who have never heard it, and detecting, often, your sources' fear of revealing what they know. It has also involved finding stories fortuitously, unexpectedly. It has been and will always be about experiencing the great responsibility we have as journalists expressing ourselves with the freedom that the official press does not have. This is the most important thing, and what always drives us to be precise and truthful.

Antonio José Ponte, Deputy Director

Why combine the day's political news, literature, other news and the "Reading" section as we have done over these ten years?

Why, if they could be considered antagonistic? Literature, imagining its falls and springs, imagining snow from the tropics. Politics, without wasting time in those imaginations. Doing it, and that's it.

But each day's news will end up being history. And becoming history, in an interpretation of the facts, is politics' way of imagining those falls and springs and snow. It is its way of proceeding closer to literature.

Politics and, even more, the political struggle against a totalitarian regime, requires a tremendous effort of the imagination. All the texts we publish in DIARIO DE CUBA, our coverage of current affairs, the articles, editorials, literature and images, are aimed at that imagination: literary, political, historical.

Journalist in Cuba

DDC has been my way out of a bubble where reality is still manipulated, towards the world as it is.

Doing journalism for DIARIO DE CUBA on the island continues to be a real challenge, something that has forged my personality and strengthened my ties to the oppressed class of which I form part.

From the moment I was invited to the team, I grew, professionally and personally. I learned a lot, not only from the part of the team outside of Cuba, but also from my colleagues here on the Island, who today celebrate this tenth anniversary with joy.

Lien Carrazana, Editor, Social Media

Over these ten years DDC has positioned itself on social media, becoming a leading reference among Internet users. With 24,800 followers on Twitter and more than 163,000 on Facebook, 50% of our web traffic currently comes from these social platforms. We are a virtual meeting point for Cubans on and off the Island, and we have a large number of followers from Venezuela, Mexico, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain and the United States. Among our readers on Facebook and Instagram, 47% are women, and 52% are men, with young people aged 25 to 34 being the majority. Miami, Caracas and Havana are the cities from which people visit us most.

Journalist in Cuba

Working for DIARIO DE CUBA from the east of the country is a challenge. It means loving the truth and wanting it to come to light, despite the repression we suffer. I see the future of DDC as that of a relevant digital newspaper, with news on Cuba. It is a privilege to work here, due to the professionalism with which they work, and the respect that the journalist is given, and how his freedom of expression is valued.

Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, the youngest member of the Editorial Staff

Three years ago, from an Internet café in Cuba, one of my friends sent two of his pieces to DIARIO DE CUBA. He didn't know other journalists there, nor did he have any relationship with the editors or the director. But he went to the Contact section of the website, introduced himself, copied his texts, and hit "Send".

I, who was still working at the daily Vanguardia, the official voice of the Communist Party of Cuba in Villa Clara, had not overcome many prejudices about the "opposition press" or "enemy." I still did not dare to say "regime" or "dictatorship", although I had already accepted, silently, that Cuba was not a democracy, nor subject to the rule of law.

"Why do you want to collaborate with DIARIO DE CUBA? Now State Security is going to make your life impossible," I told my friend.

At that time little did I know that three years later I was going to become the DDC's youngest journalist.

Right now, as reporters and editors celebrate a decade dedicated to journalism in Madrid and Havana, I joined just 72 hours ago. Until today I had never participated in the routines of a daily editorial team, nor had I been subjected to the slavery of the news cycles, relentless during the Internet era.

After I left university, it took me three years to get to the journalism school... three years later, I have come to drink from a source of journalism committed not to a single party, but rather to a dictatorship of rigor and immediacy, the only one possible.

Mirta Fernández Laffitte, Editor in Chief

The mere act of engaging in journalism in Cuba is a challenge, because of the obstacles to accessing official sources and documents, especially for independent journalists. Then there is the difficulty of distributing content on the Island, due to the regime's blockage of DIARIO DE CUBA, the atomisation of the populace, which forces us to constantly rethink our choice of topics, ways of approaching and presenting them, and the increasing speed of news events in Cuba.

However, the biggest challenge is the regime's repression. In recent years, journalists have become a priority target of State Security, and virtually all members of the DIARIO DE CUBA team on the Island have suffered from some kind of retaliation. Several have suffered arrests of up to three days, searches of their homes, and the theft of work equipment and family property. Three have been forced into exile by the authorities' constant harassment. Others have been subjected to interrogations, threatened with jail, and most have, at some point, been banned from leaving the country. One of our journalists, Osmel Ramírez, has been "regulated" for more than 760 days, which is a (sad) national record.

Juan Arturo Gómez Tobón, journalist in Colombia

Working for DIARIO DE CUBA has been a dignifying experience for the journalism profession. It is a publication that defends the truth, that truth that the Cuban people yearn for, truth presented without ideological attachments, and that has never fallen into the power games of extreme ideologies.

At the DDC one works without many frills, without the great technical and economic resources of the big networks, but that has not prevented us from being out in front with information, and recognized as a serious source that upholds dignity, truth and respect for Human Rights.

In four years of work I have never, ever been censored. On the contrary, during difficult times I was told to stop working, to put my health and safety first. When I received the call from DIARIO DE CUBA to cover the migration drama in Darién, I thought: "oh no, I don't want to work for an organization of Cuban exiles opposed to the regime." But when I visited the site, I was pleasantly surprised. I found at the DDC the kind of journalism that I had always dreamed of doing, pursuing the truth, engaging the people, respectful of differences, and careful not to fall into what we call "pornomisery" in Colombia.

In these four years during which we have covered the reality of irregular migration, we have become a leading source on the subject in America, to the point that I was invited, together with 21 journalists and 17 media from the continent, to be part of a long-term investigation of the irregular migration phenomenon worldwide. But my greatest satisfaction came from a Cuban mother who told me: "Thank you, with all my heart, thanks to your work, my son and my grandchildren are alive. Your constant news informed them of the dangers, and your complaints have meant that the Human Rights of migrants are respected".

Finally: thanks DIARIO DE CUBA, for shining a light on the migration drama, and for saving dozens of lives. The only grand aspiration of journalism is to give a voice to those who have none, and this underpins the editorial line at the DDC.

Osmel Ramírez Álvarez, journalist

Working for the DDC in Cuba is risky, but very uplifting, because you know that the more the totalitarian system hates and fears an independent source, the better the communication work it is doing. And it is a privilege to be useful to the new Cuba that we are cultivating on this battle front today, the most important one: truthful information.

For me, the future of DDC in Cuba is for it to reach more people, either because we force the current government to unblock it, to lift censorship, or because people learn more and more how to circumvent that censorship. Further in the future, I see the DDC headquartered in Cuba, not in Spain, and being the most read newspaper in Cuba, the most important, even with print runs. And then I will be even prouder to have been part of this project for so long.

Lindomar Placencia, technological development

Despite the block on our website on the island, we get to Cubans by other means: through a daily newsletter and headlines in messages. Many readers circumvent censorship using VPNs, or visiting our page on Google Play Newsstand, where you can read all our contents. We also have a weekly newsletter with highlights, and "pills" in English via e-mail for English speakers.

With the expansion of the Internet in Cuba in recent years we aspire to reach more and more readers on the island and offer the information that does not appear in the official media, so we are also committed to audiovisual content on both social media and YouTube, where Cuba in the last quarter was third among the countries that watch us most.

In these 10 years a robust and flexible infrastructure was developed for that allows it to meet the needs of digital journalism. On this anniversary we are still working on the migration of the contents to our current management system, and the launch of a new podcast service so that readers can enjoy DDC Radio programs.

We will continue to make changes that provide ways to evade censorship, pluralize the debate, and offer new features that facilitate the distribution of content, provide journalists with new tools to do their work.

El Comeclaria

When, in the still of the pond, one hears some splashing, he must move quickly to get something. I am alluding to fishing for claria catfish. That commotion means that Mariela Castro Espín has said something. "Moco pegao", for example, with her perfect claria voice.

Or Silvio Rodríguez has suddenly realized that in Cuba people are suffering.

Or Aleida Guevara March begins to remember, for whatever reason, her father.

Or Lis Cuesta has squeezed into a new outfit to face the cameras, next to her presidential, puppet-like husband.

In a universe like the Castros', where the elite and its heirs try to fly under the radar, these are the signs that occupy and make life fun for a comeclaria.

Hopefully, also for your readers. It is a pleasure to write for you, DIARIO DE CUBA readers. May we continue to see each other. I won't give you a kiss, because my mouth is full of fish.

Journalist in Cuba

Being here produces a mixture of pride and responsibility. Pride about belonging to a shrewd and professional project, an unquestionable part of the "national memory". And responsibility because you know that it is now your turn to help sustain this project, still suffering from repression.

My personal challenge is to raise to the occasion and to deserve to be here, and continue to grow, thanks to what the editorial staff has taught me.

Yusimí Rodríguez López, journalist

Being part of the DIARIO DE CUBA team has given me freedom, although without forgetting my responsibility towards the readers to be, if not objective (because that is, perhaps, very pretentious), honest. When I speak of freedom, I also mean that I have felt free to even disagree with the DDC. That, in the official press, is almost unthinkable.

The future, from the individual point of view, is always uncertain. Tomorrow I could be doing another type of work. But I am sure that DDC will increase its impact in the future. An example of the growth has been its investigation into the hiring of Cuban doctors in Brazil, which garnered an Honorable Mention at the Latin American Investigative Journalism Awards.

The repression against journalists is another sign that the Diario is, and will continue to be, a stone in the regime's shoe.

Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, journalist

Ten years speaking out, giving citizens a voice, and training journalists.

DIARIO DE CUBA has represented, for me, an instrument of personal and professional improvement, through which I rediscovered the intrinsic meaning of being a "citizen". It has helped me, in my work on the team, to articulate a critical account of the social and political reality in the country. DDC has marked a watershed in my career.

Working for the DIARIO DE CUBA on the Island is difficult, and at the same time, motivational, giving me something: a reason for being.

Being harassed for working for the DDC, and the risks that revealing the real Cuba has entailed (and will entail in the future), has given me the utmost respect for journalism, as a profession, in an adverse scenario.

I have no doubt that DDC will be a frontline newspaper (it already is, in fact) in tomorrow's Cuba, truly republican and democratic; with full civil and political rights; and the freedom of expression and press really guaranteed.

In these ten years the DDC has been characterized by its serious journalism, with a timely approach to gauging the country's political, social, cultural and economic situation. Accompanying the DDC in this process (from within, as part of the team), and reading it as a citizen allows me to see and state that, in that free Cuba, the DDC will be essential.

Roberto Álvarez Quiñones, the senior journalist

On this happy 10th anniversary of DIARIO DE CUBA, I dare to sketch the great media stature it has achieved: it is like the early cup of coffee so deeply rooted in Cuban culture (until the arrival of the Castros, because today pure coffee has almost disappeared). At least I — and I'm not the only one — if I don't read DIARIO DE CUBA in the morning, I get off to a bad start.

The main feature that makes a media source relevant is its credibility. And that is achieved by DDC through serious, professional work, which includes not just publishing news that is juicy, to "hook" the reader, but rather news on the basis of penetrating assessments, with good political instincts, and knowing how to discern between truthfulness and reliable sources, and dubious and unreliable ones. The DDC covers a great breadth of news, with reflections and articles. Its editors know how to take novel angles and address critical facets of the Cuban reality.

Thus, the reader is brought closer to that reality. In these 10 years they definitely broke the dictatorship's monopoly on information. Thanks to the "wild horse" of the Internet (according to Ramiro Valdés), many on the Island now have access to truthful information. And there the DDC plays a key role. Friends and colleagues tell me that this is the most complete and reliable source for those making up the Cuban diaspora. Correct. There is a reason why the Castro leadership has declared war on the DIARIO DE CUBA. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was surely aware of this when he agreed to be interviewed by the DDC. At that level, interviews are not granted to any sources that are not respectable, credible, and widely read.

The dictatorship prevents Cubans from reading the DIARIO DE CUBA. It does not want people to know the ins and outs of the regime. But, clandestinely, more and more people are finding out what the DDC says. And the Stalinist hierarchs read it. And those of us who have the honor of writing for this already veteran Cuban publication are also addressing them.

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