A calculating Raúl Castro sends fawning messages to the Biden Administration, seeking to coax it to remove Cuba from the list of countries that support terrorism and re-embrace Obama's rapprochement. All the while, he ever, his contempt for Cubans only grows, as he imposes fascist measures, including a ban - now made official - on independent journalism.
"I will continue to engage in independent journalism ... when I started it was prohibited ... now it is prohibited ... tomorrow it seems that it will be even more prohibited, the only thing that hasn’t changed is my resolution to inform, relate and report. I never left, I'm not leaving now, and I never will."
That was the response of Yoani Sánchez, director of 14ymedio, upon learning of the ban on the independent press. In Camagüey, the independent journalist Henry Constantín sent an open letter to Miguel Díaz-Canel: "Dear President and members of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba: You bunglers, please step down."
Meanwhile Vladimir Turró stated: "We're going to continue doing journalism, whether the regime wants it or not." Many more journalists' criticisms of the decision to include freelance journalism among the 124 activities prohibited as self-employment could be cited.
In other words, the Castro regime, instead of taking a logical and sensible step forward, has regressed. Private journalism was not expressly allowed, but it was not legally prohibited either. Now, whoever participates in it is committing a crime.
The dictatorship mocks Martí and covers up the truth
José Martí, Cuba's National Hero and greatest journalist, maintained that "words exist not to cover up the truth, but to reveal it." Well, in the independent Cuba that he forged, today reduced to dictatorial submission, telling the truth can land one in jail.
Marti's golden rule that truthfulness is the first requirement of journalism is being trampled on by an autocracy that claims to honor Marti, and even boasts of having a Martí Program Office and a Martí Study Center. At said offices, "all efforts are coordinated in relation to the widest diffusion and sharing of the life, work and thought of José Martí and the validity of his worldview ...", according to Edured, the official Castroist website.
Nonsense! To honor Marti's worldview it would be necessary to turn Castroism’s state media - which shamelessly lies, 24 hours a day - into a free, private and independent press.
The media has, historically, been the best chroniclers of each era. This has been so ever since the Roman Empire and the letters/chronicles of Pliny the Younger, which reveal to us the details of daily life during that time. Its power was later multiplied by Gutenberg's printing press and the appearance of flysheets. The 16th century brough printed newspapers, and in our era, we have seen a veritable technological revolution.
In Cuba, however, the mainstream media does not chronicle a thing. It is the private press , harshly repressed for its honest journalism - that observes and criticizes. The historians of tomorrow will not be able to draw on the official media to understand the ins and outs of Castroism and its consequences, but they will be able to turn to the vast volume of information and testimonies reported by independent journalists.
A monument to independent journalists
Sooner rather than later, in Cuba it will be necessary to erect a large monument in a square, and create a museum, dedicated to the country's independent journalists. They are the only ones who tell the truth, with admirable bravery and patriotism.
62 years ago, one of the first totalitarian moves that Fidel Castro made when seizing power, at gunpoint, was to nationalize the media. Today the overwhelming majority of Cubans on the island have no idea that Cuba was once a media powerhouse in the Americas, and completely private and independent.
With one million radios, in 1958 Cuba ranked first in Latin America, per capita, and eighth worldwide, according to the UN. It was also a TV pioneer in the region. With 58 newspapers, Cuba ranked third in circulation, with 129 papers per 1,000 inhabitants. There were 126 weekly magazines and 160 radio stations. On February 6, 1958, Bohemia magazine put out 503,000 copies. No other publication in Latin America reached such a figure.
Unfortunately, ever since 1959, when they were nationalized, the large print, radio and television media outlets on the island have become instruments of political propaganda and brainwashing. They distort reality, lie treacherously and drag the names of dissidents and private communicators through the mud.
This media monopoly, however, was finally surmounted in the late 1980s and in the first half of the 1990s. Though there were still no mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook, or computers in Cuba, a small group of men and women broke away from the Communist Party's media empire and started to engage in independent journalism, in collaboration with like-minded professional communicators.
Today there are more than 240 journalists who, risking repression and jail, dare to depict Cuba's dramatic reality. Thus was the private press, the real one, reborn in Cuba. Its reports, investigative pieces and exposés the whole world. Cubans today, and people around the world, are more aware than ever of the inner workings of Castroism, its repression, political imprisonments, the appalling ineptitude of its dictatorial leadership, its indulgent excesses, and the hunger, scarcity and abuses wrought by a dictatorship that is fascist, from head to toe.
It is private journalists who preserve the noble tradition of Cuban journalism that began with the likes of Martí, and Juan Gualberto Gómez, and so many other brilliant heroes who were harassed and imprisoned by Spanish colonialism, a baton passed to more outstanding journalists during the Republic.
The dictatorship struggles to cover up the cracks with repression
Tyranny will not abide this. In 2019 alone, a total of 154 independent journalists were the victims of some type of government aggression, the Association for Press Freedom (APLP) reported, including a one-year prison sentence for the communicator (and lawyer) Roberto Jesús Quiñones. There were 79 arbitrary arrests and police interrogations, as well as home searches, confiscations of work equipment, and de facto house arrests. Eight journalists have been barred from traveling abroad.
The vast majority have been arrested, and many have been imprisoned. In addition to Quiñones, Ricardo Bofill, Raúl Rivero, Jorge Olivera, Tania Díaz-Castro, Iván Hernández, Pedro Argüelles, Normando Díaz, Héctor Maseda, Albert Santiago and others have served prison sentences.
Independent journalists, meanwhile, are not accepted in the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC), and those who have been are excluded from it, despite the fact that they are the ones who are telling the truth, the chroniclers of their time.
A collegial entity of more than 2,100 journalist, the official journalistic union should be ashamed of abetting a tyranny that violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression" .
UPEC will not do so, but in due course another professional entity defending free journalism in Cuba will present the José Martí National Journalism Prize to prominent independent reporters who practice the kind of journalism Martí championed, despite being harassed by a relentless dictatorship.
Now, with this legal crackdown on legitimate journalism, Castroism seeks to shore up an already ailing Communist media monopoly that can no longer conceal the Cuban reality, increasingly laid bare for the whole world to see, daily.
Of course, they will not succeed, for two reasons: 1) independent journalists refuse to give up in their mission of telling the truth, and have shown the courage to challenge the dictatorship; and 2) the technological revolution in the area of communications will continue to dissipate the Castroist media smokescreen.