Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

March 18, 1999,

CUBA'S INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS FACE A HARSH 'WORKSHOP' By Raúl Rivero, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - One January morning, independent journalist Jesús Labrador Arias bicycled more than 3-1/2 miles (six KM) from Manzanilla to a rustic farm in search of data about an incident he had heard about the night before. Someone had stolen three cows, butchered them and hauled off edible portions on the spot at the farm.

When Labrador reached the farm he found a policeman, who told him, "I knew you would come. You are under arrest."

"Me?" asked Labrador with surprise. "I only came here to verify some information. Why aren't you looking for the cow-thieves?"

This is just one anecdote that may illustrate to the readers some of the problems that non-government journalists face here when they try to carry out their profession.

What we have here is a primitive and prejudiced incident showing that some agents of public order don't dedicate themselves to finding clandestine criminals even in situations or places where it is so common and repeated in Cuba. No, the guilty person is too often the one who tries to broadcast the news about the crime to the public.

If Labrador had not been arrested that day, he would have had to pedal his bicycle back to his home, find a public telephone, dial 238382 in Havana and ask that someone phone him to obtain his report from notes penciled on a sheet of paper - since this Cuba Free Press correspondent has not been able to obtain a typewriter. Instead, he got a ride!

So, in the midst of pressures and prisons, sometimes with typewriters that have survived various 'rebuildings,' a Cuban press movement has been established which like all professions which mankind attempts, has not only its shining but its sickening moments.

From my point of view, the areas 'infested' with alternative journalism must understand that sometimes there may be rascals among us who see in this work a possibility of improving their chances to obtain visas and others who believe that they can shield themselves behind the abbreviations of some independent new agency so as to conceal their political agendas.

That defense is permissible and the decision to leave Cuba is, naturally, individual and sovereign. But to use a media movement or news agency which comes under many accusations and is impoverished and must maintain itself under the authorities' permanent attack so that one may resolve some personal or family conflict seems to me to be excessive.

The question about who uses politicized language in the disguise of journalism is pertinent. The ordinary Cuban is saturated with this discussion; and people don't want to listen to slogans or formulas. Rather, they want to sense reasonable proposals, open information, transparency and basic facts so as to reach their own conclusions. This is what they would get from a professional and balanced journalism.

Meanwhile, the methods by which many independent communicators - those who had no professional experience before - have picked up the techniques of journalism and continue learning are the same as those used by experienced journalists since before the development of pencil and paper. Thus amidst the furore of daily information gathering and the complexities involving sources one always will find among a group of journalists someone calling out a question like, "Hey, guys, how do you spell bajareque?"

Besides the daily duties there is reading to do. Those who reach the peak in this profession and leave the daily journalistic tasks for their homes, possibly dark and cramped, tend to read to everyone at all hours and enjoy learning that the last name of Little Lulu is Mota and that the monograph about Ulysses was authored by Mrs. Bloom.

The development of a journalist is not the responsibility of some institution. It is the task of an individual who believes he has a vocation and talent and, therefore, takes courses, goes to the theater, reads and lives as a function of doing and being in his culture so as to help him face his work.

Those communicators who have lived much - and note that I did not say "the older ones" - and who continue working either in Cuba and outside our country, know that the school in which they were prepared to be journalists mainly consisted of a desk and the street, augmented with social contacts and self development, shrewdness and the study of grammar.

In this situation, Cuba's alternative journalists are developing, with daily transformations and many technologic limitations. And thus are developed the reports, notes, commentaries and news that reach the internet to be inserted into the spaces for Cubanet, New Press, Cuba Free Press and other independent sites.

Naturally, that night after his police confrontation when the innocent Jesús Labrador Arias was released from the calaboose, he phoned in the news, confirmed by three sources, about the assassination of three cows only a few miles from Manzanillo.

Raúl Rivero, Cuba Free Press.


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