Some years ago I read a study by the UN International Labor Organization in which they reported the profession of journalist as the second riskiest in the entire world, only exceeded by test pilots. I don’t know if the investigation included crocodile hunters or bodyguards, but the study was done in the nineties, when there were, as yet, no bloggers.
Being a journalist in Cuba doesn’t entail the risks run by press professionals in other countries. Here they don’t shoot news editors, or kidnap them, instead they poison the profession. Why physically eliminate an individual who writes uncomfortable truths if you can annul them with the red pen of the censor? Why kill them if you have all the tools to tame them? Professional death does not affect the statistics in the case of the frustration of those who—like me—one day tied their destiny to information. He who chooses to dedicate himself to the news on this Island knows that all the media is in the hands of power, call it what you will: the State, the One Party or the Maximum Leader. He knows he will have to say what is convenient and necessary, and that it won’t be sufficient to applaud if it is not done with devotion, with great enthusiasm. In these cases the risk is huge for the conscience.
For more than twenty years there has been a new type of reporter on our Island. The adjective “independent” differentiates them from those who are official. They face other risks, enjoy other opportunities. As you can imagine, many did not take university courses, but learned to relate what the Party press hides, became specialists in denunciation, cultivated the dark side of history. In the spring of 2003 everything that seemed dangerous and risky turned into punishment. Many of them went in prison to serve sentences of ten, fifteen, twenty years. The majority are still behind bars.
We bloggers came later, among other reasons because the technology came to us slowly. I dare say that the authorities did not imagine that citizens would appeal to a global resource to express themselves. The government controls the television studio cameras, the radio station microphones, the pages of the magazines and periodicals located on Island territory, but up there, far from their reach, a satellite network—demonized but essential—offers to those who aim for it, the opportunity to “hang” their opinions in practically unlimited form.
It took them time to understand it, but they are starting to. As you know, to silence a blogger you can’t use the same methods that work to silence so many journalists. No one can fire these impertinents of the web from the editorial board of a daily paper, nor promise them a week in Varadero or a Lada car as compensation, much less entice them with a trip to Eastern Europe. To stop a blogger you must eliminate or intimidate them and this equation has begun to be understood by the State, the Party… the General.