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CUBA STANDARD — In a speech to the Cuban journalists’ association, First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel warned of “Neoliberal subversion,” but also called for an end to “self-censorship” and suggested granting state media organizations more autonomy in personnel decisions.

Nearly all Cuban media outlets are owned by the state; news are tightly controlled by the government and Communist Party. Even so, President Raúl Castro has criticized official media for “triumphalism” and lack of critical coverage.

In that vein, Díaz-Canel cited examples of self-censorship and urged journalists to be more critical, according to Cubaperiodistas.cu, the Website of the Unión de Periodistas de Cuba (Upec). Díaz-Canel is the No. 2 in Cuba’s hierarchy and a potential successor to Castro when he steps back as president in 2018.

Díaz-Canel began his presentation by referring to a Jan. 1 speech in which Raúl Castro warned of “subversive propaganda by Neoliberalism”, aimed at “re-establishing a neo-colonial reign in Cuba.”

Díaz-Canel went on to explain how Upec, the Communist Party, and ministries are working on ways to “eliminate the information void.”

“By conviction, we are trying to eliminate those voids. We have encountered a terrain that’s not easy,” he said, according to Cubaperiodistas.cu, adding that some journalists “only think about dissemination, not communication.”

He urged journalists to be more thorough in verifying information given by sources, citing examples of inaccurate news, and to think about attractive presentation and more accurate headlines.

But then, Díaz-Canel expressed his “concern over self-censorship.” He cited the coverage of an armed assault against Julio César La Cruz, where news failed to report that the boxing star had been wounded by a bullet. In Cuba, gun ownership is tightly controlled and assaults involving firearms are rare.

He urged journalists at national media to follow the example of provincial media and “confront illegalities, corruption, social indiscipline.”

“Sometimes, we lack initiative,” he said. “Criticism, when well done, helps. But it’s not only about criticizing; rather, a necessary balance must be sought, the necessary completeness. Professionalism is important on this path.”

Díaz-Canel also told journalists that personnel decisions regarding leadership positions should be taken within the media organizations.

In October, the Party replaced the heads of two of the most prominent national media, the Juventud Rebelde and Granma dailies, describing the move as “renewal.” The new director of Granma, Pelayo Terry, is considered less of a hardliner than his predecessor, Lázaro Barredo Medina. Terry was editor of Juventud Rebelde before receiving the call to Granma. The decision was taken by the Party’s politburo.

Díaz-Canel, speaking to Upec. Photo: Yoandry Ávila

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