“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Journalism in Cuba: A Battle of Ideas and a Dirty War


The fight for control of Cuban cyberspace has awoken “the dark side” in some fighters, who are getting deeply involved in a “dirty war”, using shame, lies and rumors to damage people’s integrity.

A few days ago, a fake comment appeared on the Internet, which attacked Fidel Castro’s family and was signed with my name. In the midst of a campaign waged against Cartas desde Cuba (my personal project), the objective was clear although this behavior is worthy of the minions in this media war.

In this particular case, there was collateral damage. The text attacked the integrity of one of the Revolution leader’s family members. It seems like somebody thought it would be worthwhile to pay the price for putting Fernando Ravsberg in a difficult situation.

A few days later, I was sent an article which had much worse content, a post from the “Teo Pereira in Cuba” blog, where the author reveled an alleged sexual relationship between a US journalist and a Cuban dissident, while the latter’s girlfriend was waiting for him in Cuba. (1)

Photos of the dissident, the naked journalist and the woman he cheated on appear in the article. The language used, with terms such as “a stinking bullshitter” or “shabby reporter”, wants to be funny but it’s just sad, as sad as the fact that this kind of “journalism” has reached the political arena.

To top it all off, the blog’s author pretends to be gay, stigmatizing them, as if this vileness is “typical” of the LGBTI community. He ignores the fact that some of the country’s most brilliant, honest and dignified artists, intellectuals and journalists come from this community.

Those who are spreading these lies on the Internet define themselves as “Cuban revolutionaries” and have photos of Che, Silvio, Marti and Fidel Castro as their cover photos on Facebook. (2) Which is extremely ironic because none of these great figures would lower themselves to such foul behavior.

Este blog hace un “periodismo político” al mejor estilo de la TV-basura, con chismes de quien se acuesta con quien, condimentado con fotos escandalosas.

This blog features “political journalism” in the best TV-garbage way possible, with jokes about who is sleeping with who, seasoned with some scandalous photos.

Even the enemy deserves to be fought with respect. During Bill Clinton’s presidency – the same man who approved the Helms-Burton Act-, I interviewed Fidel Castro at the Mexican Embassy. I asked him eight questions and the only subject he avoided was the one about Monica Lewinsky.

At that time, Clinton had been trapped into a corner in his own country because of that scandal, it would have been very easy for Fidel Castro to get at him from this angle, but he didn’t. I must admit that I was very pleased, as a journalist and as a human being too, to see that he didn’t take advantage of an issue like that one.

However, Fidel Castro didn’t escape this dirty war unscathed either; a family video came out of his home and was sold to a Miami TV channel. They paid a ridiculous sum to make a report where they “accuse” him of even eating more grapefruits than his kids, of having a stainless steel kitchen table or of giving his grandchild a scooter.

This “journalism”, which violates people’s personal privacy, isn’t moral and there’s no reason that can justify such dirty means. Whoever puts the political struggle in such a dunghill, will end up even dirtier than their opponents.

Something we much rescue from the Cuban media is that it has always remained on the edge of scandalous journalism, which is common in other countries, where media outlets make a living off of digging up dirt on famous people’s lives so they can create a sick morbidity in ordinary people.

Sticking the political debate in this kind of quicksand will affect everyone. This dirty war is a boomerang which will end up hitting even those who initiate it, because nobody, absolutely nobody, is so free of sin that they can throw the first stone.

If many people begin to write defamatory comments, signing with the names of those of us who think differently to discredit us, we Internet users will end up not knowing what people’s real opinions are.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the style of the “Teo Pereira en Cuba” blog becomes popular and jokes about who is having an affair with their secretary, who is cheating on their wife or the sexual relationships our children have are published.

Is it moral for us to throw these cyberbombs without looking at who we’re really throwing them at? Is it fair that family members become “collateral damage” in this sad fight for control of Cuban cyberspace? Would “winning” be honorable at the expense of causing damage to so many innocent people?

At both ends of the spectrum, there are people who dedicate their lives to inventing comments, lies or to spread personal truths about their opponents. They are worthy of our contempt but the truth is, they’re worthy of our pity because this dirty war always humiliates the assailant more than it does the victim.

Escondiéndose tras la imagen de Fidel Castro, desde esta página de Facebook se distribuyen las groserías del “periodismo” de Teo Pereira anunciándolas jocosamente como una ¡bomba!.

Hiding behind the picture of Fidel Castro, from this Facebook page where vulgar stories of Teo Pereira’s journalism are spread, announcing them comically as if they were a bomb!

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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