His own man in Havana

"THE CUBAN government's newspaper Granma is incredibly boring," Simon Wollers, a British journalist who has worked for more than three years on the Cuban government's Radio Havana, told November's LFB meeting.
Simon Wollers at a rally in Cuba

Simon Wollers at a rally in Cuba

"There, I've said it. So what will happen to me when I get back to Cuba? Nothing. All Cubans agree with me."

Wollers explained that, in the "Western" sense, journalistic freedom doesn't exist in Cuba because the media are state-owned and the unions are organs of the state too. So the people in power could not be "attacked", although the actions of institutions, including ministries, could be: "But you would be surprised what I'm allowed to say on air. I've had discussions on sexism, homosexuality and racism, civil rights violations in Cuba - which there are, of course, as in every other country in the world. I think our reporting is 95 per cent good. I don't object to the rest being propaganda because there's plenty coming the other way."

On foreign news coverage, he said Cuba could not afford its own correspondents beyond the Latin American region, and otherwise depended on international news agencies. In editing reports from these sources, he said, journalists were both "at liberty to say what we like" and "might get our wrists slapped". He said, "You know how far you can go, as you do in any job anywhere".

Commenting on the jailing of several "independent" journalists this year, he said: "I don't agree with the sentences, but I don't think they were journalists. They were paid $150 a month by [anti-Castro/Communist] organisations in Miami. That's a phenomenal sum to a Cuban. For instance, I earn $7 a month at Radio Havana. I have no problems with independent media, but I do say to them: tell the truth. I've never seen an independent newssheet on the street. I don't know if it would be allowed, but try it out."

Last modified: 15 November 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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