Journalist accreditation in Cuba

By Diana Barahona

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.

6 responses to “Journalist accreditation in Cuba

  1. Alina M. Lopez Marin

    She should have asked about the income and benefits provided to retirees and whether they are provided to dissidents as well. Is it $20 per month as the workers are paid while providing their professional services? Will they be allowed to participate in the dollar related industry where only a certain number of Cubans are allowed?

  2. I think retirement pensions are less than the salary paid while working, just like most places.

    $20 per month sounds crazy to a USAmerican unless you take into account the entire economic picture; most Cubans own their homes, especially once they’re retired, pay very little for utilities, have subsidized food, free healthcare, practically free transportation, etc.

    Which is not to say that it isn’t difficult – my retired friends watch every penny, and I mean every penny. But in that sense they’re not that different from my retired father, who the Cubans would say walks on his elbows to avoid wearing out his shoes.

    I don’t see any reason a “dissident” wouldn’t be receiving their pension – they’ve just decided to augment it in a particularly sleazy way.

    And I’m not sure what you mean about a certain number of Cubans being allowed to participate in the dollar related (tourism?) industry – and whether you’re referring to retirees or so-called dissidents in relation to those jobs.

  3. Alina M. Lopez Marin

    Why do you consider dissent sleazy? Is it not our ability to speak against the treatment of the Cuban 5 what makes our country great?

  4. You mean our ability to speak about the injustice meted out to the Cuban 5 and be almost completely ignored? Is this country a great one? Outside of its spectacular natural beauty (which we are doing our best to destroy) I’d say that’s a leading question. I’ll pass.

    How much money is a foreign government paying Machetera to distribute her dissent through her vast publishing empire? None.

    How many millions of dollars is the USA shoveling toward Cuban dissidents and their cottage industry in Miami, Puerto Rico and Spain, which is dedicated to removing socialism and re-installing capitalism? Hundreds of millions, soon to be augmented by hundreds of millions more on the sly through Obama’s recent erasure of limits on remittances. That’s what makes it something sleazier than simple “dissent.”


  5. Alina M. Lopez Marin

    I think you should try to interview some of the Cuban population which does not get any subsidies from the US, I am hoping that you do speak some Spanish. At the point that you stop spewing slogans and listen to some real people, I will come back to your blog. So let me know when you take the time to interview people as opposed to government officials. The Cuban government actually does some good things, such as care of the disable. Why don’t you report on some of the good things and let us know.

  6. Why did I have a feeling this comment thread was heading this direction? If you can’t figure out that I’m fluent in Spanish (and that I’m not Diana Barahona), lordy…

    For now I will have to send you to the back of the class. Dismissed.

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