Journalism in Today’s CubaJune 15, 2012 | | Print |
Vincent Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — Havana Times recently published a comment from a reader concerning my own commentary, one related to the frustrated attempt by journalist Talia Gonzalez when she tried to film a report on prices in hard-currency stores.
I appreciate such opinions that come with arguments calling on our national press — so subservient to the Communist Party — to raise and pursue questions to their logical conclusion.
Even if it means going after those in the highest spheres of government who are responsible for dictating prices and importing the products sold to the public.
I sympathize with the correctness of that desire, but we must place it in the context of time and place. The reporter was fulfilling her role, digging into a matter with direct bearing on the Cuban people.
She stepped far out on the limb with her words, as she alluded to prohibitions imposed by government bureaucrats at the highest levels.
I have had similar experiences and I can testify that when a challenge threatens the upper echelons, there suddenly appear justifications to cut short or dilute any investigative reporting initiated by journalists.
It seems that Talia is benefiting from some kind of “special protection.” Otherwise, how was there authorization for the airing of her report, whose follow-up is a must.
Someone I know who is knowledgeable of the situation by virtue of their being a part of the so-called hard-currency chain stores, explained to me that because these retail outlets are part of the business group run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), those establishments are technically military units and thus subject to military regulations.
We’re therefore faced with an absurdity left over from times of the past and whose elimination is essential.
It turns out that the Cuban reporter is a member of the state-run media system, someone previously assessed by that system as being reliable. Yet we discover that she needs a special permit to enter a store with the aim of carrying out her job?
They can’t turn to national security or military secrecy as an excuse, because these involve simple retail outlets that are open to the public. But I agree that requiring the reporter to first get permission is something that could be put in military defense terms: “a battle forewarned doesn’t kill soldiers.”
While the senior bureaucracy is debating this incident, I remember that the call to eliminate “secrecy” in relation to our press and its right to transparency were issues discussed at the April 2011 Sixth Communist Party Congress.
I agree with the wise adage that “sequels are never any good.” There’s no turning back beyond the rhetoric. Here, I should refresh the memory of the extremists:
“Either we make corrections or we’re already out of time as we continue along the edge of this precipice. We are undermining and we will continue to undermine, as we said before, the efforts of whole generations…” (Raul Castro, Havana Convention Center, December 18, 2011)
After his election as head of state, the former minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces [Raul Castro] stated his conviction that he was elected to defend socialism in Cuba. I understand his words, but I also add that if this involves a specific model of socialism (Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cuban, or Chavista), I will abstain from voting and I understand its detractors. On the other hand, if this approach means defending the great good accomplished by the revolution of Fidel Castro, I’ll stand by that.
The theme of the press has remained an unresolved issue for leaders of communist parties in power – regardless of the country or the historical period or the particularities of the situation. Gorbachev attempted a new opening through Glasnost, and its results frightened the few survivors of the disaster.
Returning to Talia, I assure you that starting from this simple incident in life, we may get to the point — finally — of calling on the carpet any irresponsible minister or other high-level head of the nation, a right enshrined in our constitution and voted for by the vast majority of Cubans in a national referendum.
Similarly, as for the vox populi concern about their “social protection,” this might be the main gripe of many; but the gist of the matter is that the report try to open a crack, setting a favorable precedent for others, protected or not. It’s time to advance by taking people for what they say, backed by their high responsibilities. It’s time to exorcise ghosts.
I am hopeful that our news media will continue to be news in itself, otherwise retrenchment in the past would be a temporary success for a few and at the same time a failure in the long run for many.
We can and should demand of the Cuban media much more than what it gives us today.
To contact Vicente Morin Aguado write: firstname.lastname@example.org