It’s dangerous to be a journalist in Cuba

By Ivan Garcia in Martí News:

It’s dangerous to be a journalist in Cuba

When doing independent journalism on the fringes of a communist state, you have to be well informed. You can’t pretend to look for “breaking news,” or compete with state-run news agencies.

Ladies in White march through the streets of Cuba. Photo courtesy of @ivanlibre
Ladies in White march through the streets of Cuba. Photo courtesy of @ivanlibre

It’s important for a Cuban reporter to master the narrative techniques of modern journalism, have on hand a book by the famous Italian journalist Oriana Fallacci, have read the chronicles of Gay Talese or Rosa Montero. But it also seems essential to have at least one computer, a recorder and digital camera.

However, it cannot be forgotten that a professional reporter on the island is trying to do journalism in an autocratic country where, according to its laws, the profession of spy and reporter without official authorization are almost synonymous.

Yes, you must learn to use the tools of the 21st century: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, but in Cuba, it is more useful to weave a network of friends in different strata who may be able to steer first hand information your way.

Unable to confirm the information or verify it with other sources, we must rely on intuition. There will always be a missing piece of data or a specific figure that would lend credence to an article.

Without access to official statistics, it is impossible to compare the news and see other points of view to balance a story. Reporters on the the island sometimes have to throw certain established rules to the wind.

For example, if it is intend for a “jinetera,” or prostitute to tell you her story, it is advisable not to show up with a microphone or a camera. Otherwise, she may not disclose the details of her life in prostitution or may give a false narrative.

Unable to record, take notes or take pictures, it is essential to have a good memory. When quoting someone who lives on the margins of the law, what matters is to take in the essence of what was said.

Independent journalism in Havana is risky . A news story can mark a drug dealer or a prostitute for a sting operation. Therefore, care must be taken to disguise identitities, places of residence or where a person may usually operate.

Last year, Diario Las Americas ran a story about prostitution involving transvestites. Every night they sat in a doorway of a local avenue, Calzade de 10 de Octubre. After the article was published, the police discreetly evacuated the place.

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