It was last weekend when a small news article caught my eye. Yahoo News reported that a Venezuelan journalist and a dissident Cuban blogger denounced press censorship and other forms of media control by their countries' leftist governments on the second day of a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association, in Denver, CO.
Both journalists have been traveling around the world criticizing press censorship in their home countries. Yahoo News reported on remarks made by the award-winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez. She said Cuban President Raul Castro in the past year has stepped up government crackdowns on free speech.
The crackdown has involved "violence carried out by pro-government mobs, intimidation, vandalism and the arrests of five (would-be) independent journalists," she said.
I have always opposed censorship, even in countries where I support the ideological slant or anti-imperialist stand of a government. So I thought I should at least look up Sanchez’s blog, especially since I am a blogger myself. We are not only bloggers, but both of us are writers of dissent in our own homelands.
The blog was in Spanish, so I had to use a Google translation. Here is Yoani Sanchez’s post on independent journalism and press freedom for a blog called Generation Y;
Last week a friend asked me if the arrival of democratic change to Cuba would end with independent journalism. I was meditating, because there are responses that should not join a race without weighing them well. In the seconds that I was silent went through my head all the images and moments when those reporters word risk and have influenced my life. I thought Raul Rivero , who came out of journalism and government institutions to take the dangerous leap towards freedom of his pen. I remember in Penalver Street apartment permanently typewriter on the table, the smell of cigarettes , arms outstretched to welcome all who come . Without doubt, a man who loves the profession for which he was at the center of so much repression and many injuries.
I kept going over names. Reinaldo Escobar who infected me with the virus forever journalism , colleagues in the Spring of Cuba , the many friends who have nurtured Cubanet pages , Journal of Cuba , Coffee Strong, HablemosPress , Miscellaneous in Cuba , Voces Cubanas , Penúltimos Days and many other sites , blogs , press agencies , or simple newsletters with just a sheet folded in half . Spaces in which that country has been narrated retracted by the official media and political slogans triumphalism. People who chose the hard way, instead of silent, simulate, stay out of trouble as does the majority. Thanks to them we have heard news silenced countless newspapers, national television and radio. These privately owned and hegemonic past Communist Party.
So when my friend gave me that question, I concluded that in a democratic nation does not need journalism surnames. There needs to be "official" or "independent". Precisely, as a small tribute to all those reporters yesterday and today, I wrote the foreword to the anthology " With open voice " that includes a selection of news and reviews written from within Cuba and in the most precarious conditions from the point legally and materials . It is a book of journalists ... to dry, without qualification that determine their affiliation to an ideology or not. A compilation that will bring that future need not make such distinctions between media professionals.
The one thing we don’t have in common is ideology. When she talks about “democratic change to Cuba” She probably means bourgeoisie democracy as we have here in the US and Western Europe. Then she wonders if this kind of democracy will bring in “independent journalism.” I wonder if she has thought of how hard it is for independent journalists to get an audience of any kind here in the US. Most people get their news from a handful of TV media outlets that who act as a monopoly on our news. ABC, CBS and NBC make up the three main news channels that anyone can access. On cable there is CNN and FOX. FOX is financed by big business and offers a far-right slant on the news. The others claim to be “objective” but, other than a few issues, they seem to just broadcast whatever the government is saying, especially on foreign news. I often here people from other countries tell me; “We know you have independent news outlets here, but they act as if they are government run.” Most cities today have only one major newspaper. Even large cities as New York, Washington and Chicago have only one major newspaper and the people of those cities get one viewpoint of the news. Very few people here read or hear “independent journalists.”
Pundits in the US are quick to point out that Cuba does not allow capitalist newspapers to be published, but in the capitalist US, the Communist Party can publish its newspaper. But here is the catch; most Americans have never seen that paper and have no idea where to find it, until the internet. It can’t be found next to the local news paper or between Time and Newsweek magazines. It’s not in most libraries and it is dispensed from very few businesses. Even now, most Americans have never seen that paper or any other communist paper or web site. Years of pro-government propaganda have convinced most people that communist papers just tell lies. So in a way, the paper is printed and available, but censured through various propaganda techniques. In the Yahoo article, Sanchez is quoted as saying Cuba’s opposition press is subjected to "violence carried out by pro-government mobs, intimidation, vandalism.” If Cuba ever gets what she calls “democracy” she may be surprised to find that won’t change much. Such tactics have been used in the US’s past. Angry patriots have attacked newspaper offices, editors and journalist, for printing a number of offensive things, often for criticizing a war or from criticizing the racism of our past. The same goes for intimidation and vandalism.
One example of such censorship is Meagan May, of Manhattan Kansas. She is not a journalist, but she posted some negative comments on her Facebook page about soldiers who shouldn’t be expecting special treatment. Then her page was flooded with hateful comments from military people and their supporters. Someone even put up a special hate page called The TRUTH About Meagan Hatesoursoldiers May. She was also fired from her job.
Mostly the US uses two forms of censorship. The first is finding ways to keep any mention of dissident journalist or dissident political activists out of the major media. For example, Malala Yousafzai has been praised as a hero for standing up to the Taliban, wanting to go to school. In all of that publicity the major news media has given her, none of these outlets has mentioned that she wanted to go to a Marxist school. They also don’t mention she has denounced Prez. Barack Obama’s drone strikes in her country.
Most Americans hear nothing of the opposition to the war in Afghanistan, opposition to the US Empire and most Americans don’t know the names of any Marxist websites or parties. Many may not even realize there are serious groups who oppose the US capitalist system.
Then there is firing. Most Marxists who publish on the internet use pen names to avoid losing their jobs or being attacked by angry neighbors. Meagan May was fired from her job at Carmike Cinemas.
When Sanchez talked about “the arrests of five (would-be) independent journalists," she has touched on the one thing the US does not do very often and doesn’t need to. The private sector takes care of stopping dissident journalist, through black listing, firing them from their jobs and damaging their reputation.
Since Sanchez is able to get around to other countries, she might someday see that censorship is not limited to “left-wing” countries. I oppose censorship everywhere it exists. However, it can easily be found in the so called “democracies” of capitalism. And there is no more tolerance for communism in this system than there is for counter-revolutionaries in Cuba.