Journalists in Cuba, Bad News and Firings

Fernando Ravsberg

Aixa will go down in history as being the only leader of a journalists’ association, in the world, who asks the authorities to deport a colleague.
Aixa will go down in history as being the only leader of a journalists’ association, in the world, who asks the authorities to deport a colleague.

HAVANA TIMES — The campaign against [my website] Cartas desde Cuba is becoming a bit too extreme. The vice-president of the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC), Aixa Hevia, proposes, in not a very subtle way, that the Cuban government throw me out of the country because my journalism makes “decent” Cuban citizens feel uncomfortable.

“It seems that the course this Uruguayan “professional” has taken has begun to make decent people feel uncomfortable (…) when calls begin to appear on digital platforms calling for expelling somebody from the country who is constantly changing colors like a chameleon,” she says.

Aixa will go down in history as being the only leader of a journalists’ association, in the world, who asks the authorities to deport a colleague. She wants to silence Cartas desde Cuba, which she does in vain because we would continue to inform people from outside Cuba anyway.

On the blog of Silvio Rodriguez, Doris comments that “once again Ravsberg becomes the messenger who you have to shoot for bringing bad news. Forgive me my dear journalists, but the problem isn’t Ravsberg. The problem is that we haven’t been able to resolve the problems our media has.”

Hevia also attacks Jose Ramirez Pantoja’s integrity, my colleague who was fired from Radio Holguin. Without a single argument to back her up she asks, “Is this how Pantoja has decided to look for a record which would then allow him to cross over to work for the media in Miami? What an ugly way to go, if this is the case.”

However, what is really ugly is accusing a person without any proof and what’s twice as ugly is the fact that this comes from UPEC’s vice-president, an association which should defend journalists’ rights. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” Joseph Goebbels once said and he proposed “making the enemy one”, in this case, nothing better than to link it with Miami.

Che Guevara warned journalists in the ‘60s not to become docile workers who obey the official political ideology.
Che Guevara warned journalists in the ‘60s not to become docile workers who obey the official political ideology.

The problems in Cuban media are profound and deeply-rooted, so much so that Che warned us about them half a century ago. The singer-songwriter Vicente Feliu has just published some ideas about the Argentinian-Cuban Comandante, where he recommended that we stop “hiding away our mistakes so others can’t see them. This wouldn’t be honest or revolutionary.”

In the book entitled “Socialism and the New Man”, the legendary guerrilla fighter warned us about the creation of a parasitic media belonging to the government. “We shouldn’t create docile workers who obey the official political ideology, nor interns who live under the protection of their government budgeted salary, exercising their “freedom”, so to speak,” he said.

In 1989, General Raul Castro asked journalists to exercize a critical role. At the closing ceremony of the 4th UPEC congress, “Raul, without using a microphone, pressed those present, in a stimulating tone: “journalists write your critical opinions, the Party will support you.”

In order to get me kicked out of Cuba, they could try and accuse of being a mercenary, but I don’t receive any money on top of my salary. I keep Cartas desde Cuba running with my own income and savings, nobody else gives me a single cent, not on or off the island.

They can’t claim that I work for “the perverse media multinationals” because I left the BBC over two years ago and since then I write for the Spanish newspaper “Publico.es”, which by the way has a plural editorial policy but leans to the Left.

Unable to accuse me of being a mercenary or a sell-out the disciplinary action becomes hard to enact, but Aida fixes that one easily, she’s asking for me to be kicked out because she doesn’t understand me: “I don’t understand the former BBC correspondent’s real intention with so many inaccuracies and hidden agendas.”

Why does she have to attack Fernando Ravsberg if the real problem we should be debating is what disciplinary action can be used against a Cuban journalist? [Referring to Jose Ramirez’ Pantoja]. Joesph Goebbels gives us the answer once again when he suggests that “if you can’t deny the bad news, make up other ones to distract people.”

I don’t believe this is a personal issue; extremists have been trying to prevent this new journalism from developing and growing, even within the government’s own media outlets. In addition to Jose, I know three other journalists who have been fired recently.

They’re afraid that we’ll become a different kind of journalist, creating a responsible, serious, real, timely, attractive, critical and complementary journalism all at the same time. Made in and for Cuba, by young Cubans.
They’re afraid that we’ll become a different kind of journalist, creating a responsible, serious, real, timely, attractive, critical and complementary journalism all at the same time. Made in and for Cuba, by young Cubans.

They blocked La Joven Cuba, accused OnCuba and Progreso Semanal as doing “the enemy’s work” and attack blogs written by national and international journalists, removing them from local platforms, leaving them unemployed or asking the authorities to kick them out of the country.

They’re afraid because we continue to develop a different kind of journalism, a responsible, serious, real, timely, attractive, critical and complementary kind of journalism, all at the same time. This movement has been created in and for Cuba, made up mostly of young Cubans, many of whom lack even basic economic resources.

They know that a lot of people read and believe us. They’ve realized that we’ve gained credibility and racked up a large number of readers over a very short period of time, readers from all over the world and of all ages, especially young people.

A part of this new journalism’s success is down to the fact that we don’t accept being “docile workers who obey the official political ideology, nor interns who live under the protection of their salary, exercising their “freedom”, so to speak.”

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Truth is the enemy of communism, it must be stifled whatever the cost. The Castro regime since its inception has opposed the freedom of information by eradicating all independent media and by controlling information provided by permitting only media controlled by the state. In Cuba, TV, press and radio are all controlled by the state, short wave radio is blocked and TV reception discs banned.
    It was Che Guevara was opposed to a free press and it was he who said:
    “We must do away with all newspapers. A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press.”
    Fidel Castro said in criticizing a free press:
    “Certain measures were taken such as the establishment of a bourgeois form of freedom of the press. This means the counterrevolution and the exploiters, the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to speak and write freely against socialism.”
    Although the Internet has been around for twenty five years, it is only now that Cubans can if they have sufficient funds and live in specific locations can achieve limited access to it.
    The main way in which actual information rather than the regimes propaganda is being disseminated is by cell-phone especially by the younger generations. Throughout modern history, intelligent youth have been radical in the true meaning of the word, thinking that there is a need for change and improvement in society and Cuban youth are no different.
    “The enemy” of communism is freedom, whether it be of expression, action or of political movement.
    What is happening currently in Cuba and is reflected in the article by Fernando Ravsberg, is a communist media purge.

  • George

    The problem with Fernando’s journalism is that it is directionless, this is not so bad, there are examples in Havana Times that are leaning towards counter-revolution as a direction which is worse. I used to defend Havana Times as being made up of socialists who differed from the party line, however now it seems that many of the authors are openly calling for capitalism. I put this down to the relentless campaign of Moses, Carlyle and others. The problem with these two is that they, being married to Cubans, genuinely want something better for the Cuban people, however their first world mentalities blind them to reality. Irish, Black, they both know that it is possible for the historically oppressed to progress in the first world better than it is possible to progress in Cuba, unfortunately, they reason this is because the first world is capitalist rather than imperialist, thus their arguments are naïve at best. Fernando’s journalism reflects the reality that the direction is becoming confused. The world has changed much since 1959 and Cuba no longer seems to be the vanguard. Competition has intensified and the youth are clamouring to compete. But for what?

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      I note George that you regard those who agree with your view (socialist) as normality, but that those who express contrary views as running a “relentless campaign”. That appears to display a degree of conceit upon your part in promoting the concept that the left is always right. If you wish to study campaigns, why not criticize the nonsensical contributions of that self-described Republican who campaigns for support for the repressive Castro family communist regime – Kennedy Earle Clarke.
      As you correctly point out, both Moses and I have Cuban wives but you conclude that our views are naïve. Has it occurred to you that we actually know what we are writing about as a consequence of prolonged experience of living in Cuba and the harsh reality that we know well?
      I can assure you that being married to a Cuban is not a “problem” as for me it is a joy.
      The “problem” is yours in not having the depth of experience that Moses and I possess!
      You may criticize Havana Times for permitting those who are not of your socialist persuasion to express their views, but that reflects democratic freedom – which you yourself enjoy.

      • George

        Thank you Carlyle. There are no leftist commentators campaigning on Havana Times. Those that come here come to defend, not campaign. There is a difference. There used to be someone who campaigned from the left as relentlessly as you for changes in Cuba. He was advocating the ditching of Marx in favour of Proudhon and the mandatory use of co-operatives as opposed to state ownership. The Cuban government eventually took tentative steps in this direction.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Well, believe that George if you like, but where is the morality of the defence you endeavour to suggest.
          How does one defend persecution?
          How does one defend execution and/or imprisonment without trial?
          How does one defend the imposition of an inhumane political system dating from the 19th century upon a whole people, providing no form of choice?
          How does one defend jailing parents for teaching their own children in their own home anything that is contrary to communism?
          How does one defend allowing fertile agricultural land to revert to bush in a country where food rationing is policy?
          Let me remind you of the meaning of the word ‘tyranny’.
          “cruel and oppressive government or rule” and “cruel unreasonable or arbitrary use of power or control”
          ‘Tyrant’: “cruel and oppressive ruler” and “a person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable or arbitrary way”.
          Just in case you care to further defend the Castros by denying their cruelty:
          ‘Cruelty’ “behaviour which causes physical or mental harm to another”.
          The Castros imposition through power and control of their personal beliefs upon millions of Cubans has caused the breakup of families fleeing from their oppression, the fear of families that through the CDR their ability for free expression without fear of imprisonment has been removed, that their ability as parents to instruct their children about the very meaning of freedom has been removed, can only be described as: ” behaviour which causes physical or mental harm to another.”
          The reality is that communism is contrary to humanity. Although Fidel Castro does not differentiate between communism and socialism saying that they were both “socialism” he was careful not to include democratic socialism in which those holding left wing views also recognize the rights of others to disagree and with some of whom I have personal friendship.
          My views are clarified in only the second paragraph of ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’. “Cubans are denied what is perhaps the least recognized but possibly the most important right for those who live in the free world. That is simply the right to openly disagree with the opinions of others and especially with political viewpoints. The Castro communist regime rigidly demands conformity with their view, no other is permitted.”
          You and I George are permitted to disagree with each other – that freedom is a treasure which we ought not only to protect for ourselves, but to seek for others. That is what I do – how about you?

    • Eden Wong

      “… I put this down to the relentless campaign of Moses, Carlyle and others…”

      You are completely out of your mind if you think any posters here in the peanut gallery have any influence whatsoever on the management of Havana Times.

      Honestly, you’re losing your marbles.

    • steve webster

      I do not care if is capitalism or something else but at this time, journalism must be free do tell both sides of the story. In Cuba today this not being allowed. I often disagree with Carlyle and others in the Havana Times but this is seen by many outside Cuba as a true voice. Many people including myself want something better for the people of Cuba.

    • Moses Patterson

      With respect, allow me to set you straight. I don’t WISH for Cuba to be capitalist. I wish for Cuba to be free. I BELIEVE that capitalism, with the appropriate regulatory controls is far better than socialism. I HOPE that Cubans, once free, will choose a free-market based economy to replace the Castro-style socialism that has failed the Cuban people.