PART ONE CUBA: A Media Profile Media is the used around the world for the central purpose of sending and receiving information. To study the media in a country such as Cuba, you must consider the political, social and the cultural ideologies of the country. While most of the world is free flowing with information using mediums such as radio, television, the press and the Internet, Cuban people are exempted.
The content within these mediums, reflect the ideologies of the Cuban government and also maintain a sense of nationalism. Information that reflects different ideologies of the Cuban government are not permitted on the island and are considered illegal. It is dangerous for a society such as Cuba to repress the basic laws of human rights and exempt its people from the freedoms that we Americans take for granted such as; freedom of expression, press, association and assembly. This document is divided into two parts. Part one, Cuba: Media Profile, which will explore the media and its function in Cuba. Part two is titled Media Under a Communist Regime.
This part will exhibit the laws pertaining to media in Cuba, and the crimes and punishments of independent journalist trying to survive in Cuba. During the early 1960s, a class struggle was waged within media outlets all over Cuba. This struggle reflected the major changes taking place all over Cuban society. The Revolution’s aftermath resulted in the nationalization of Cuban media. Mass media information was no longer subject to private corporations but became a public asset. The Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (IRCT), was created to supervise and manage radio and television station island-wide.
In Cuba today there are 62 radio stations across the island, staffed by 911 journalists. (Salwen 84) Cuba operates one international short wave radio station, Radio Havana which broadcast in nine languages. (84) Radio Rebelde, Radio Progreso, Radio Reloj, Radio Musical National and Radio Enciclopledia are the national station heard throughout the country. There are 38 provincial and municipal stations and 92 community radio station that focus on local issues and have more limited air. (84) Radio broadcasts plays an important role in Cuba. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has found itself in an of the economic crisis.
With this crisis came drastic cuts in newspaper and magazine information, and a reduction in television broadcast time. (88) This meant that much of what was covered by these media became the responsibility of the radio. Television broadcasting in Cuba began in the late 1940s. During this time Cuba was used by businesses as grounds for new technologies, making Cuba a world pioneer in television. (104)In Cuba today there are two national television channels, one international channel, and eight regional channels.(104) There are many households in Cuba with a television sets, but they are old and outdated. The end to trade with Eastern Europe has led to shortages of parts and television sets.
Cuba is no longer the breaking ground for new technologies. The economic blockade has severely impacted media production in Cuba. This can be seen in the use of aged transmitters, and almost the obsolete analog technologies that have not yet been replaced. There is also a great concern for the future of radio and television image and sound archives.
Irreparable losses are occurring due to the lack of air-conditioning and rise in humidity. Due to lack of audio and videocassettes, producers have been re-recording over tapes that have already been used. Of all the media, the print media was hit the hardest by the economic crisis. (39) Because the printing of periodicals depended entirely on the import of newsprint and other supplies from the former Soviet Union, daily publications of magazines and other periodicals was severely cut.
(39)By 1994, the number of daily newspaper that has been published weekly in the country was lass than half of what it had been in 1989.(39 )As a result of the crisis some 300 print media journalists, that is 10% of the total island , found themselves jobless.(39) In Cuba today there are three national newspapers in circulation, Granma, Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde. Granma is the voice of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and the country’s newspaper of record; Trabajadores is he newspaper of the National Workers Confederation; and Juventud Rebelde is the paper of the Youth Organization. (Cubanet) Cuba also has two news agencies.El Agencia de Informacion National (AIN;National News Agency), has news desks in almost every province in Cuba and a radio service that is widely used by provincial and municipal radio stations. (Cubanet) The other, Presna Latina, has correspondents in various parts of the world. Despite serious economic limitations and lack of hardware, Cuban media has been able to access the internet.But getting to the internet is not easy.
Since the bulk of the country’s infrastructure, including the telecommunications is antiquated. (Christian Science Monitor, Boston) The only internet service provider, CENAI allows access only to those cleared by the government, most incoming information is heavily censored by the government. . Economics have restricted widespread access to the Web.An average Cuban makes about 110 pesos per month, about $5.00. (US Department of State, Washington) An internet connection with the world Wide Web access costs about $260.00 a month.
E-mail accounts cost $67.00 per month. (Christian Science Monitor, Boston) Currently the daily edition of Granma, Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde have electronic editions. (Christian Science Monitor, Boston) Radio stations are also beginning to make their Internet Debuts. Radio Havana Cuba (www.radiohc.org) post daily transcripts of its Cuba related stories in four languages (Spanish, English, French and Portuguese) and Radio Reloj (www.cubaweb.cu) posts news stories as well as specials on culture and sports.
Radio Rebelde also has a web site accessible through www.ceniai.cu. It is impossible to speak about media in Cuba, without mentioning the small media warfare between the US and Cuba. On May 19 1984, under the Reagan administration Radio Marti was launched, a full fledged 24 hour, uncensored news about Cuba and US relations.Through 3 frequencies, seven radio stations,Radio Marti broadcasts over 1500 hours of radio of anti-Castro propaganda is directly beamed into the island through short-wave radio signals. As a result of Radio Marti, TV Marti was created.
TV Marti is the only television service in the world whose target audience has never seen it. Except for top officials with satellites and some black-market videotapes of TV Marti, it is hard to obtain do to the successful jamming of TV signal by the Cuban government. TV Marti was created under the Bush administration, with a 9.6 million dollar budget. It was named for Cuban-independence was patriot, Jose Marti, and was supposed to be better than Radio Marti. But from the start it faced technological problems. For one TV Marti operates from a floating transmitter, which proved easier to jam than short-wave radio.
Cuban officials jammed the TV Mart signal by transmitting Cuban programs on the same channel. Jamming American radio and television signals has, to date, been the most politically and economically-effective tactic employed by the Castor regime. (Bayer 541) Perhaps Castor is very much aware that American radio stations are only as successful as the number of listeners they attract. By reducing the number of possible radio listeners through jamming of US stations, Castor may be injuring the American radio broadcast industry where it hurts most, financially.
Although both Radio Mart and TV Mart have become permanent fixtures of Cuban life, frequent interference by Cuba has also become a concern of numerous radio stations throughout the United States. The United States refused to take military action against Cuba for jamming its ignals. Instead, President Clinton’s administration compiled a six-tiered plan of political and economic sanctions against the Island. (Bayer 541) Among these sanctions, Clinton ordered increased support for Radio Mart to overcome jamming by the Cuban government.
(Bayer 541) The administration authorized an additional two million dollars in funding to increase reception of US government broadcasts in Cuba. (Bayer 541) The US also sought international condemnation of Cuba’s actions through the United Nations. (541)In short, this latest incident, and the actions resulting there from, demonstrate two critical factors. (541)First, the United States still views the use of radio broadcasts into Cuba as a necessary and effective weapon in its war against communism.
(541)Second, any future negotiation between these two countries with respect to international broadcasts, or any other controversial political topic, will inevitably have to occur under the auspices of an international regulatory body such as the United Nations. (541) Whether a solution to the “radio war” in the Caribbean exists is questionable. (543) With the imminent downfall of the Castor regime, we may see substantial progress in the way of free communications between the United States and Cuba. (543) Presently, however, the ongoing war over the airwaves between these two countries serves as a fresh reminder that there is a need for mutuality in international broadcasting and international relations between Cuba, the United States and the rest of the world. (543) PART TWO: Media Under a Communist Regime Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution provides: “Freedom of speech and press are recognized for citizens consistent with the purposes of socialist society. The material conditions for their exercise are present by the fact that the press, radio, television, movies, and others mass media are state-owned or socially owned, and can in no event be privately owned, which ensures their use exclusively in the service of the working people and in the interest of society.
The law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.” (Human Rights Watch 29) Cuba is a totalitarian state. Since 1959 under the leadership of Fidel Castor, Cuba has become the first Communist state in the Western Hemisphere. Before 1959, the people of Cuba, looked favorably upon Castor and the struggle against Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.Castor proposed policies for early elections, diversification of the economy, moderate social and political reform based on the Cuban Constitution of 1940. (Thomas 2) Since coming to power, it wasn’t long befor the extremist character of Castro’s to become clear. Instead of the promises castro made to the Cuban people, Cuba was radically transformed into a self styled Marxist- Leninist machinery of repression. Castro’s priorities remain unchanged: maintaining unchallenged power, a sense of historical self-importance, and extreme Cuban nationalism.
When Castor publicly declared Cuba a Communist country, democracy was abolished and so was the freedom of expression, opinion, press, association, and assembly. In the Cuban media, there’s only one acceptable point of view, the regime’s. An official journalist in Cuba cannot choose which story to write, and cannot express their own opinion. In Cuba there is no freedom of the press that would allow for different political views, which are fundamental for a democratic regime. To the contrary, radio, television, and the print media are instruments of ideological imposition that follow the dictates of the group in power and are used to transmit the messages from that group to the grass-roots and the intermediate levels. The main newspapers in Cuba reflect only the viewpoints of the government.
Only to a very limited extent do they report on the debates that take place within the high-level officials of the state. As a result, self- criticism is also limited. It is a role the press plays with a view to transmitting the grievances of the grassroots to the top officials in power. Nonetheless, in no way do these grievances overstep the limits of ideological conformity.
In no way can they oppose, or become spokespersons advocating a radical change in the prevailing regime, or that hold upper-level government officials accountable in relation to substantive political issues. The Castro regime maintains a firm stance against independent journlism. In June 1998 the government labelled Cuba’s small group of independent reporters “self titled independent journalists’ dedicated to defaming our people by means of the radio stations that broadcasts from Miami against Cuba.” (Human Rights Watch 151) In contrast the governmenrt called upon the “truly free” press to serve the socialist state “by gaurenteeing the continuity of socialist, patriotic, and anti-imperialist ideas and values, and the revolution itself for future generations of Cubans.” (Human Rights Watch 151) Today in Cuba there does exist an independent press. There are three remaining independent news agencies in Cuba, Havana Press, Cuba Press and Cuban independent Journalists Bureau. Many of the journalists worked for government media until they were fired for “ideological incompatibility” and now are trying to make a living freelancing for foreign news organizations. (Conde) Their aim is to carve out a livelihood that is independent of state-controlled media yet a comfortable distance from organized dissident factions at home and abroad.
(Conde) To be an independent journalist in Cuba is illegal, a dissident. The Cuban government not only uses mass organizations, but also uses its security and courts to threaten, intimidate, detain, and prosecute independent journalists. (Human Rights Watch, 152) The Government subjects independent journalists to internal travel bans, arbitrary and periodic (overnight or longer) detention, harassment of friends and relatives, seizures of written manuals and computer and office equipment, and repeated threats of prolonged imprisonment. (US State Dept.) To compound the problems of the independent press, there is the obstacle of just sitting down to write. The Communist regime controls all that is published, while access to the Internet is also strictly regulated. Journalists lack computers or fax machines and basics such as writing paper, typewriters and ribbon and even pens and pencils.
Typewriters must be registered; owning a fax machine or photocopier without authorization is punishable by imprisonment. (Conde) Phone calls are monitored and often interrupted and lines severed. Articles are usually phoned in (collect) to a couple of European contacts, to Mexico or to Miami agencies, such as Radio and TV Marti. The Government does not allow criticism of the revolution or its leaders.
Laws against antigovernment propaganda and insults against officials carry penalties of three months to one year in prison, with sentences of up to three years if President Castor or members of the National Assembly or Council of State are the object of criticism. (US State Dept) In December 1997, the National Assembly of Popular Power approved the Law of National Dignity, which establishes that “The weight of the law will fall on anyone who, in a direct or indirect form, collaborates with the enemy’s media … with jail sentences of three to ten years” and is aimed directly at the independent agencies who send their material abroad. (Human Rights Watch 152) On April 26, 1996, nine Cuban security members ransacked the offices of the Cuban Independent journalists Bureau (BPIC) for four hours.
(Conde) They seized all of the BPIC’s equiptment; two typewriters, a word processor, as well as its files. (Conde)Joaquin Torres, a journalist with the Havana Press independent news agency there, termed it “a reminder that they are there, and they can silence us whenever they like.” (Conde) Nstor Baguer, President of the Agencia de Prensa Independiente (APIC: Independent Press Agency) was seriously injured by an unknown individual who hit him several times; as a result he suffered a broken wrist and several hematomas. (US State Dept.)The events occurred in Havana, on March 2, 1995. On July 11, 1995, members of the State Security force searched his home, seized a facsimile machine, and disconnected his phone service.(US State Dept.) Days later Nstor Baguer filed a complaint before the Municipal Court of Plaza to secure the return of what had been confiscated. (US State Dept.) Nonetheless, the court clerk refused to admit the document, stating that it had no legal basis. (US State Dept.) Laws against antigovernment propaganda, graffiti, that was of disrespect towards any government official in Castro’s regime, carried penalties of from 1 months to 3 year’s in prison.
(US State Dept.) Charges of distributing enemy propaganda (which includes merely expressing opinions at odds with those of the Government) can bring sentences of up to 14 years. (US State Dept.) Resident and foreign correspondents have dealt with an increase in governmental pressure, including official and informal complaints about articles, threatening phone calls, and lack of access to officials. (US State Dept.) In the Government’s view, such materials as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international reports of human rights violations, and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines constitute enemy propaganda. Local city officials inhibit freedom of speech by monitoring and reporting dissent or criticism. (US State Dept.) Police and state security officials regularly harassed, threatened, and otherwise abused human rights advocates in public and private as a means of intimidation.
(US State Dept.)A court in Holguin sentenced independent journalist Mario Gonzalez Castellanos, Cuba Press correspondent in Holguin, to 2 1/2 years in the Holguin prison known as Cuba Si, for showing disrespect to Fidel Castor. (US State Dept.) The Constitution also includes “dangerousness,” defined as the “special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest contradiction of socialist norms.” (Human Rights Watch 42)If the police decide that a person exhibits signs of dangerousness, they may bring the offender before a court or subject him to “therapy” or “political reeducation.” There have been many cases in which officials have enforced these laws upon there citizens. In January in 1999, a court in Moron, a Cuban province, sentenced Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez, Director of the Cooperative of Independent Journalists (an advocator of human rights) to 4 years’ imprisonment for “dangerousness.” (Human Rights Watch 154) Human Rights Watch reported that Diaz was accused of having met with delinquents and having disturbed the public order. He was tried the day after his arrest, making it impossible for him receive adequate defense. (154) In July of 1997, the authorities arrested independent journalist Lorenzo Paez Nunes and subsequently sentenced him to 18 months in prison.
(156) According to his family, Hector Peraza was arrested in July and detained for 2 months the day after he received a visit from a “foreigner who gave him a computer.” (156) State security agents harassed family members when pressure on independent journalists was not successful in forcing them to abandon their work or their country. (156) On July 17 1999, a police officer threatened to arrest Merino Cabrera, a member of the Human Rights Workers’ Party, for dangerousness and warned him against continuing his activities. (154) A few days later, on July 27, Cabrera found a cardboard coffin on his front door with the words: “Rest in Peace.” (155) Cuban authorities treat people that participate in non-violent activities such as meeting to discuss the economy or elections, writtng a letter to the government, reporting on political- or econmic developements or advocating for political prisoners, as criminals. Cuban courts continue to and imprison independent journalist and others for the peaceful expression of their views. The denial of basic and civil human rights is written into Cuban law.
And there is barely a voice audible to allow the world to know and understand the plight the Cuban people face every day. Independent journalist in Cuba risks their lives to raise the voice that is barely heard. To the rest of the world they are heroes with brave and noble intentions. To the Cuban government, they are the enemy. In conclusion, a letter was written from a political prisoner will further help understand the need of freedom.
LETTER FROM PRISON: LA CAOBA To all honorable men around the world. This letter is a call for help if I can survive its aftermath. If not, it will be my political will and testament. That will not diminish its value to those who, like I, have been suffering prison terms in the extermination camps which the tyranny has created throughout the island, seeking to drown in silence and cruelty the voices of Cubans calling for liberty. I’m guilty of raising my voice to ask for liberty for Cuba, of wanting a civil government nominated and elected by the people, amidst an assorted flow of political currents, of wishing private property for Cubans, to own and enjoy what their individual efforts can afford them, without denying the collective enjoyment of what our beloved land offers us as its fruits of a government free of constant pretentious to power, because I don’t want anyone or anything to minimize the right of Cubans to share with foreign visitors the gifts of our climate, nature, and installations, because it pains me to see my people suffering from the capriciousness and absurd administration which is drowning us daily into misery, giving away to foreigners what belongs to us, without concern over the loss of the motherland. For these reasons, and many others, which support the unscrupulous goal of the tyranny to extinguish us, for my opposition to them, I’m guilty, sanctioned, banished, kept from seeing my loved ones, of receiving any kind of aid, of maintaining contact through the mail, of receiving adequate medical assistance, they even deny me aid from God, prohibiting me from receiving the services of the Church.
My condition as a political prisoner is not recognized, and they force me to live with the common prisoners who are encouraged to attack me. Everything is shaded by abuses and humiliations, which I suffer, by word and by deeds. I appeal to you and to God. Lawyer Juan Carlos Castillo Pasto, plantado prisoner.
Serving 8 years for enemy propaganda, at La Caoba prison, Santiago de Cuba. Translated for CubaNet by Lourdes Arriete. (CubaNet) BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Bayer, Stephen D., The Legal Aspects of TV Mart in Relation to the Law of Direct Broadcasting Satellites, EMORY 1992.
2.Conde, Yvonne M. “Independent Cuban Press Seeks Access to the Outside World.”The Fourth Estate. V129. P48+. January 27, 1996. Source: http://vweb.hwwilsonweb.com/cgi-bin/webspirs.cgi 3.
CubaNet source: http://ella.netpoint.net/cubanet/CNews/jul96/15e2.html 4. Human Rights Watch. CUBA REPRESSIVE MACHINERY: HUMAN RIGHTS 40 YEARS AFTER THE REVOLUTION. Human rights Watch, New York.
June 1999 5. Lipsschultz, David. “The Web Washes over Cuba, but Surfers Still Few Econmic hardship and a government wary of information flow hinder Internet’s growth.” Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Mass. 9 July, 1997 6.
Robbins, Carla Anne. “Our Jam in Havana: This US Staion Doesn’t rate in CubaCastro’s Interference Keeps TV Mart Off of Screens.” The WallStreet Journal 25, Nov. 1997 7. Thomas Hugh S. CUBAN REVOLUTION: 30 YEARS LATER. Westview Press.
London 1984. 8. United States State Department. Human Rights in Cuba source: http://state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997. Bibliography BIBLIOGRAPHY 1.
Bayer, Stephen D., The Legal Aspects of TV Mart in Relation to the Law of Direct Broadcasting Satellites, EMORY 1992. 2.Conde, Yvonne M. “Independent Cuban Press Seeks Access to the Outside World.”The Fourth Estate. V129. P48+. January 27, 1996.
Source: http://vweb.hwwilsonweb.com/cgi-bin/webspirs.cgi 3. CubaNet source: http://ella.netpoint.net/cubanet/CNews/jul96/15e2.html 4. Human Rights Watch. CUBA REPRESSIVE MACHINERY: HUMAN RIGHTS 40 YEARS AFTER THE REVOLUTION.
Human rights Watch, New York. June 1999 5. Lipsschultz, David. “The Web Washes over Cuba, but Surfers Still Few Econmic hardship and a government wary of information flow hinder Internet’s growth.” Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Mass.
9 July, 1997 6. Robbins, Carla Anne. “Our Jam in Havana: This US Staion Doesn’t rate in CubaCastro’s Interference Keeps TV Mart Off of Screens.” The WallStreet Journal 25, Nov. 1997 7. Thomas Hugh S. CUBAN REVOLUTION: 30 YEARS LATER.
Westview Press. London 1984. 8. United States State Department.
Human Rights in Cuba source: http://state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Bayer, Stephen D., The Legal Aspects of TV Mart in Relation to the Law of Direct Broadcasting Satellites, EMORY 1992. 2.Conde, Yvonne M.
“Independent Cuban Press Seeks Access to the Outside World.”The Fourth Estate. V129. P48+. January 27, 1996. Source: http://vweb.hwwilsonweb.com/cgi-bin/webspirs.cgi 3. CubaNet source: http://ella.netpoint.net/cubanet/CNews/jul96/15e2.html 4.
Human Rights Watch. CUBA REPRESSIVE MACHINERY: HUMAN RIGHTS 40 YEARS AFTER THE REVOLUTION. Human rights Watch, New York. June 1999 5.
Lipsschultz, David. “The Web Washes over Cuba, but Surfers Still Few Econmic hardship and a government wary of information flow hinder Internet’s growth.” Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Mass. 9 July, 1997 6. Robbins, Carla Anne.
“Our Jam in Havana: This US Staion Doesn’t rate in CubaCastro’s Interference Keeps TV Mart Off of Screens.” The WallStreet Journal 25, Nov. 1997 7. Thomas Hugh S. CUBAN REVOLUTION: 30 YEARS LATER.
Westview Press. London 1984. 8. United States State Department. Human Rights in Cuba source: http://state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997.