July 17, 2008
La Habana – Today we met with Armando Briñis of the International Press Center. This was a little awkward, given that I’m an independent (not employed) journalist, and the CPI is there for real working journalists, who come to Cuba from all over the world to denigrate the country. Cuba puts up with 150 resident foreign correspondents (probably including technical workers) and for big events, like the pope’s visit, may receive up to 4,000. However, Briñis, like everyone else who deals with foreigners, was respectful towards the journalists, laying the blame for their lousy reporting on owners and editors. On the positive side, they bring in money, so at least they are contributing something to Cuba.
CNN is ensconced in the Habana Libre, and other big media companies such as the BBC are at another site. Exactly what they do all day is a mystery, since there are not that many Cuba stories going out on CNN. A local assures us that every time there is a problem, such as a fire or a carefully-staged show by dissidents, they are on scene with cameras and microphones, but are nowhere to be found when an important change in the law is being debated.
The big change now is to the social security law, which, because of the aging of the population, will raise the retirement age by six-month increments until men reach 65 and women reach 60, with 30 years of service.
Asked about the jailed mercenaries, Briñis said he was not aware that any member of the foreign press corps had ever tried to secure an interview with one. It seemed the foreign media didn’t want to touch the subject. I always wondered if the geniuses at the Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International ever read the crap written by the “independent journalists” before they decided they had been imprisoned for exercising basic freedoms. AI apparently is under the misapprehension that being in the pay of a hostile foreign power is a basic freedom. The CPJ, of course, is a charity set up by millionaire newsmen to show they care about the less fortunate of their profession.
The Miami Herald is one paper that does not receive accreditation by the CPI. On the other hand, Briñis informed us that independent journalists from the United States may apply for accreditation from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Getting a travel license from OFAC is a separate problem the journalist has to solve herself, but I got the impression that an accredited independent would be accorded more respect here than in most places.
Diana Barahona recently earned a BA in journalism from California State University – Long Beach, where she was disruptive, disrespectful and had an agenda, according the chair of the journalism school. She is now studying sociology at California State University – Fullerton.