The Media in Castro’s Cuba 

Chapter 8: The Media in Cuba Juan Orlando Perez

Good potted, selective history of Cuban journalism outlining the signficant events that lead to the status quo of journalism in Cuba today.

  • Autumn 1959 the coletillas in Diario de la Marina
  • ‘Operation Truth’ that invited 380 journalists to witness the trials of those responsible for crimes under Batista’s military rule
  • The definition of journalism by Castro on 27th June 1959
  • The flight of media owners to Miami
  • The nationalisation and monolopistic control of the media by the government
  • The establishment of the rules of engagement in Castro’s speech in 1961 during a debate between ICAIC and Revolucion (‘Inside Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing’)
  • The disbandonmnet of Revolucion and the establishment of UNEAC in1961 reduced the spaces for dissent and restricted freedom of expression
  • The rise and fall of various publication over three decades at the politial whim of the government
  • The emergence of ‘threatened niches of relative plurality’ (121) such as ICAIC which provide a control valve, a second tier of public communication that can co-opt the threat of dissidence but which clearly remain in the control of the government
  • The modeling of the media system in a Soviet, authoritarian, hierarchical style where the media is seen as an instrument of ideology. The state press, in Granma and Juventud Rebelde, micro-managed by the Ideological Department of the Central Committee) and local papers, are normative – presenting a selection of the news most advantagous to the defence of the ‘Revolution’ i.e., of government policy and ideology.

‘The episode that most clearly shows the reluctance (or chronic poilitcal incapability) of the Cuban media to transcend the myths of the official propaganda and accept dissent, took place in May 2002, when former US president James Carter visited Havana. [He], during a speech at the University of Havana broadcast live on television, mentioned the Varela project, an11,000-signature petition to the National Assembly calling for free elections. The ex-president asked the Cuban authorities to publish the Varela Project and allow the public to discuss it. The next day, Granma and Juventud Rebelde, neither of which had previously mentioned the Varela Project, managed to report Carter’s speech omitting the request. The silence of the Cuban press became itself an international story and after two days Granma surrendered and published the entire speech.’ (128)

  • The Varela Project was never mentioned again. The National Assembly rejected the petition a few days after Carter left and proclaimed socialism irrevocable.
  • Crisis in the 1990s – Cuban print media reduced 58% of its total print copies
  • Exodus of journalists
  • 2003 ‘Black Spring’
  • ‘La Batalla de ideas’
  • la Mesa Redonda
  • Slow recovery of print media
  • The rising use of satellites and the internet