Changes in the relationship between the United States and Cuba may have resulted in a relaxation on travel and trade restrictions, but they have not diminished the censorship and media control on the island. Leadership of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which manages Radio and TV Martí, described the realities of the evolving Cuban media market to the BBG at its meeting April Board meeting.
“Human rights are abused every day, access to information is limited and heavily controlled, and all media is owned and operated by the state,” explained Natalia Crujeiras, Chief Content Officer for all the all the media platforms of the Martís including Martinoticias.com. “Cuban officials dealing with the White House may have changed the tone of the conversations, but the Castro discourse and relentless media campaigns haven’t budged on the island.”
The Martís are providing much needed reliable journalism on multiple platforms. According to a recent survey, 20 percent of Cubans get their news from Radio Martí. In the first three months of 2015, Martinoticias.com received 1.7 million hits. The Martís’ following has grown by 71% on Facebook and 23% on Twitter.
“Cuba is a country in transition,” explained Carlos García-Pérez, Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. “We have to think long-term. We may not know where the chips are going to fall, and but we have to be ready to help the Cuban citizens get the information they need to live healthy, successful lives. And we are ready.”
BBG Chairman Shell agreed, adding, “Our work in Cuba is important, perhaps now more than ever. Some may think our work there is done, but in many ways our work is just beginning.”
Noting that Sunday is World Press Freedom Day, Shell acknowledged that for press in Cuba and around the globe, their work is increasingly dangerous. BBG journalists and contributors have faced a myriad of threats including having family members jailed in China, being shot in Iraq, jailed in Azerbaijan, and expelled from an conference in Panama.
Despite these challenges, Shell explained, “We are committed to the pursuit of global press freedom and upholding the principles of professional journalism across our networks.”
Prior to the presentation by OCB, Shell expressed gratitude to departing Voice of America Director David Ensor saying, “David has steered the VOA ship through rocky waters and a rapidly changing media environment. It is a big loss for us, and as one of the longest serving VOA Directors, he will be missed.”
After the meeting, Shell invited former BBG Chairman and current President and CEO of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson to share insights on changes in the media and political landscapes and how they impact the future of U.S. international media.
“Everyone in U.S. international media really deserves a heck of a lot of credit for being so dedicated to this mission, believing that if we report the truth it will benefit people around the world,” Isaacson told the assembled journalists, staff and leadership. “Being here today is my tiny way of saying how valuable your mission is and how much I appreciate work that you are doing.”
OCB Deep Dive
Conversation with Walter Isaacson
About the BBG
The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), an independent international media organization overseen and funded by the US government, puts objective, professional news and information content to work on behalf of U.S. global interests and national security. USAGM networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa) and the Open Technology Fund. USAGM programming has a measured audience of 354 million in more than 100 countries and in 62 languages.