Unlike his late brother, Raúl Castro doesn’t seem to be keen on travelling to places to meet common people and allow them to ask questions. He prefers speaking to a microphone in the cold meeting room of the “Palacio de las Conveniencias”, addressing his subordinates, delegates or a visiting president of another country. At best, he can be seen on TV in the national news, passing through halls, coming or leaving.
Back in 2010, after four years of governing the country alone, he once spoke about the necessity of good national journalism. (Apparently, he didn’t consider the printed media that had been bringing the news for 41 years by that time, under the joint dictatorship of the Castro brothers, good enough.)
To define that necessity, he used the adjective “immediate”. As a matter of fact, he called upon the Cuban journalists to immediately start producing good-quality news. He might have been referring to the journalism that did not comply with the rules of his Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
To save his face, Raúl Castro hypocritically declared that he wanted freedom of press for Cuba. These were his exact words:
“It’s important to practice investigative journalism, to carefully examine all sources of information and not to stop before finding the truth; although it’s good to trust what we hear, a fair value needs to be placed on the facts; it’s necessary to use one’s discretion, expose bad acts and avoid going with the flow of formal commitments, empty slogans or boastful words adorning the reality or covering up insufficiencies.”
Up to this point, the verbatim copy of Raúl’s speech doesn’t sound as if it was given by a communist dictator but rather resembles a declaration by Journalists without Borders.
But there can be no mistake, that’s exactly what Raúl Castro said and what the official newspaper Granma published on July 13, 2010. However, the best is yet to come. After saying what he had said, he finished his speech with a categorical statement: “This immediate call I’m making is to defend the Revolution using the tools of the trade under the supreme political guidance.”
What did he mean by that? Did he mean that being faithful, obedient and loyal is the same as being subordinate?
Four years later, in October 2014, in the 3rd Plenary Session of the National Committee of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), the regime’s first Vice-President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, said the following: “At present, the alternative media bring more information than we do.” He said that he believed that although secretismo (secretiveness – failure to provide certain information of public interest by the Cuban official media) had been on the decrease, the same could not be said with regard to autosecretismo (self-secretiveness) and self-censorship. Finally, he complained about the lack of professionalism in the field, which is rather the same as if he had said that the official Cuban press was terrible.
I ask myself: How could these journalists, our colleagues, write about the daily Cuban reality? Would they be really able to offer the details of the amazing double-currency system that has been complicating the financial situation of single families and harming the working class? Would they really provide information about the economy which is in constant bankruptcy or about the amounts that the regime wastes on the propaganda? Would they be actually able to freely express their criticism of the theft committed in concert by the high ranks, of the social indiscipline and the general apathy? We would have to wait and see.
Most importantly, the press would have to stop being official to be free. Only then would our colleagues be able to write boldly, as we, the independent journalists, do on the Internet, running big risks in our country just for telling the truth.
I will finish with a phrase which Fidel Castro Ruz used shortly after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, after the fight that took place in the mountains of La Sierra: “Where there is crime, there is no freedom of the press; where there is crime, the truth of what is being done is concealed.” I think it says everything that needs to be said.