Few independent journalists challenge Cuba's restrictions
March 18, 1997
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)
From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
HAVANA (CNN) -- Cuba may well be the only country in the
world where people line up at 6 a.m. for a chance
to buy a Sunday paper. And a skimpy paper it is -- only 16
pages -- because of the acute shortage of newsprint in this
Only 100 papers are delivered to each kiosk -- not enough to
go around -- meaning many Cubans leave empty-handed, and
Cubans, thirsty for information, rarely miss the government-
run television newscasts.
There's also the Communist Party daily, but virtually all of
Cuba's media outlets carry but one message -- that of the
island nation's Communist Party, which controls all public
Not quite all -- independent journalist Ana Luisa Lopez bangs
out reports almost daily on a dilapidated typewriter. She
writes for Cuba Press, one of Cuba's half dozen fledgling
independent news agencies. The agencies offer the only voice
of opposition to the Castro regime.
Lopez, who lives alone with her 20-year-old daughter, has
been publicly denounced as a traitor by the neighborhood
Communist Party committee.
"I perceive the danger," she says. "It's always present. We
haven't been put in jail but we've been threatened with
Lopez phones in most of her reports to Radio Marti, a network
beamed to Cuba from Miami by the U.S. government which hopes
to contribute to the fall of the Castro regime. The signal
is jammed by Havana, but does get through.
The Castro government justifies the total absence of
opposition press by saying that Cuba is at war, under attack
by the world's biggest superpower, and cannot leave itself
open to internal attack.
A senior U.S. official criticized Cuba on Monday for restricting press freedom.
"There is no press freedom at all," Assistant Secretary of
State for Inter-American Affairs Jeffrey Davidow said. "The United States' commitment to a peaceful transition to
democracy in Cuba includes support for the open flow of
information," he said.
The director of the Communist Party's youth newspaper
condemns independent journalists like Lopez.
"Right now I think they are providing a servile service to
the imperialists," says Ayleen Rodriguez, director of
Juventud Rebelde. "They are at the service of people who want
this country to disappear."
Lopez says it's not the country but the one-party system she
would like to see disappear.
Lopez has received a series of obscene and unsigned letters
since she began working for Cuba Press -- including one
slipped under her door while she was speaking with CNN's
Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman.
"This is meant to intimidate us, to destabilize us
psychologically," she said. "But we are prepared for this
and a lot more."
There are signs the government may not tolerate the
activities of opposition journalists much longer.
Cuba has recently passed what it calls the "law of defense of
Cuban sovereignty and dignity." It punishes those who are
seen as giving information to the enemy. In Cuba, the enemy
is anyone who does not defend Castro's revolution.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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