Cuba 24 July 2002

Welcome to the land of revolutionary propaganda.

Don’t expect to find the slightest criticism of the regime in the local press. The Constitution says the media can "under no circumstances" be in private hands and that press freedom is "subordinate to the goals of socialist society," which the national parliament declared in June to be "permanent."

Apart from international TV stations that can only be seen in major tourist hotels, the entire written press, national and local radios and the country’s two TV stations only put out propaganda - articles and reports that are chosen, re-read and corrected in accordance with the regime’s ideological line. The Department of Revolutionary Guidance, which answers directly to the Communist Party central committee, is in charge of this censorship.

Some 2,000 journalists work in Cuba’s government-controlled media. All of them are obliged to join the Cuban Journalists’ Union, whose code of "ethics ," says that "a journalist, through his work, must help promote the constant improvement of our socialist society."

The latest device the regime has come up with to control the media is the international press centre, which under the direct supervision of the foreign ministry. Its job is to issue accreditation to foreign journalists, keep an eye on them and scold them if need be.

In this situation, the 100 or so independent journalists around the island, grouped into about 20 independent news agencies that the authorities refuse to recognise, do their best to exercise their professional right to inform the public.

In its concern to keep total control of the media, the regime cracked down hard on dissident publications in the early 1990s. Banned from publishing in their own country, the independent journalists send their news and articles for publication on Internet websites or local Cuban community radio stations abroad.

Although the broadcasts of these stations are jammed by the regime and ordinary Cubans do not have access to the Internet, the government still does everything it can to obstruct independent journalists in their work - systematically harassing them, confiscating their equipment, intimidating their families, summoning them to police stations for questioning, arresting them and sometimes throwing them in jail for many years. Four are currently imprisoned.

News in Cuba? Propaganda here we come!

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