Ley Mordaza – Gag Law
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    Independent Journalists Live on the Razor’s Edge in Cuba

    Independent Journalists Live on the Razor's Edge in Cuba / Iván García

    Ivan Garcia, Translator: mlk

    Every day when they go out to report or write some story about daily

    reality, invisible to official media, the murky Gag Law that can land

    them in jail for 20 years or more floats over their heads.

    It's not just the legal harassment. There is also their ration of slaps,

    subtle taekwondo blows in the ribs, insults by fanatics spurred on by

    the special services, threatening phone calls at the break of dawn or

    arbitrary detentions.

    The further they live from Havana, the more brazen and open is the

    intimidation. Independent journalists of deep Cuba, after spending

    several hours in a pestilent cell, are released in the night, far from

    home, on a hidden roadway surrounded by sugar cane plantations.

    None of the free journalists can collate his information with State

    institutions. All the officials shut the doors in their faces. Nor do

    they offer you facts or figures. But there is always a way of getting

    them. Sometimes, employees of state agencies, sick of Fidel Castro's

    inefficient socialism, whisper to you first hand information or numbers.

    Anonymous people bring you internal regulations, figures about suicides

    or the analysis of the latest meeting of the provincial Party. In

    exchange for nothing. They just want to broadcast aspects of the sewers

    of power. Nonconformist technocrats, beat cops, low ranking military

    soldiers, prostitutes with years in "office," marginalized slum dwellers

    and budding athletes are the true architects of any story or news.

    Each text that goes out from the mature laptops of many independent

    journalists has a dose of review filtered by those deep throats desirous

    of changing the Cuban political compass. Years of writing under the

    hostile barrage of fire and harassment have polished the style of these

    lone wolves.

    When one speaks of journalism on the margin of state control in Cuba,

    some indispensable names must not be forgotten. From human rights

    activists Ricardo Bofill and Adolfo Rivero Caro, who in years of hard

    repression reported about the violations of essential rights of man, to

    Yndamiro Restano, Rafael Solano, Rolando Cartaya, Raul Rivero, Ana Luisa

    Lopez Baeza, Iria Gonzalez, Tania Quintero and Ariel Tapia, among others.

    Rivero Caro is no longer with us. The rest sleep far from their

    homeland, anguished about the future of Cuba, dreaming that they walk

    along the Malecon or drink coffee brewed in their Havana homes. The

    repression, the jail and the harassment by the regime forced them into

    exile. We have had to get by without them.

    There is Luis Cino. I present him to you if you are not familiar with

    harassment. He has a blog, Cynical Circle and writes high quality

    chronicles on Cubanet and Digital Spring, a newspaper managed in a

    Lawton apartment. It is a reference. For the quality of his work and his

    human condition.

    In Downtown Havana, surrounded by empty lots and buildings that scream

    for repair, cradle of prostitution and con artists, of people who think

    twice as fast as the average Havanan, bastion of misery, prohibited

    games, children induced by their parents to beg for coins, stronghold of

    the sale of melca and imported marijuana, here, in the heart of the

    capital resides Jorge Olivera.

    Tall and quiet mulatto. A softy in every sense of the word. He was one

    of the defendants of the Black Spring. Not even a walled cell could

    erase the perennial smile from his face. Seventeen years after beginning

    as an independent journalist, Olivera has not lost hope of greeting his

    friend Raul Rivero again and together founding a new kind of daily in a

    future Havana.

    Meanwhile, Jorge keeps firing with his pen. Stories, opinion pieces and

    poetry drafted at night. In Santa Fe, surrounded by cats, we can find

    Tania Diaz Castro with a long track record in the Cuban opposition

    movement. In Regla, among quacks and religious syncretism, a reporter

    from the barricades, Aini Martin Valero also has a magnet for news.

    Juan Gonzalez Febles is another sharpshooter, he currently directs

    Digital Spring. The lawyer Laritza Diversent lives in a village in

    keeping with its name: Calvary. According to a state decree, the

    majority of its inhabitants, natives of eastern provinces, are illegal.

    They survive in overcrowded cardboard and aluminum shacks.

    To relieve legal illiteracy, Diversent opened in the dining room of her

    home a legal consultancy, Cubalex. And for various digital sites she

    writes articles on legal topics, without jargon. Some are very popular

    in her neighborhood.

    If he ever aspired to be a councilor, Roberto de Jesus Guerra would

    succeed. There is no need to know the address of his home. The locals

    indicate to you the home of this communicator born in the east of Cuba,

    agile and tireless in the search for information. He ably manages the

    audiovisual equipment and has the instincts of a detective. It was

    Roberto de Jesus who got the scoop about the medical brutality that may

    have cost the lives of 27 psychiatric patients in January of 2010.

    Miriam Celaya a reporter of the race. She resides near the "mall" of

    Carlos III in Downtown Havana. We independent journalists, who agree on

    almost nothing, do agree that Celaya is one of the best columnists of

    that other Cuba that the government tries to ignore.

    On all the island there are independent journalists, some are better

    known and have more experience than others. But all report the vision of

    their community and their country. They are the cry of the citizens who

    have no echo in the official press.

    Translated by mlk

    November 24 2012


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