Washington, D.C. — Thirty-five years ago today, Radio Martí began broadcasting uncensored news and information programming to Cubans living on the media-restricted island. Today, the Martí brand — operated by the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and since expanded to include TV and digital operations – continues to be a vital communications link to the Cuban people in support of freedom and democracy during economic, cultural and political hardships.
The launch of Radio Martí in 1985 was met with a swift response from the Cuban government, including jammed airwaves and the suspension of an immigration agreement. Though much has changed politically in 35 years, Cuba remains one of the most restrictive media environments in the world.
“Today more than ever, the people of Cuba need accurate and unvarnished information—something their government refuses to provide,” said Interim OCB Director Emilio Vazquez. “Until the day comes when the Cuban government allows a free press on the island, we will continue to be that source.”
Since 1985, and through the expansion of programming on radio, TV, and online, Cuban audiences have sought the Martís as an alternative to the country’s state-controlled media. This is especially true as disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and rumors about false cures circulate throughout the island.
“The current global health crisis is just further proof of the Cuban government’s unwillingness to put the lives of everyday Cubans above the power-hungry needs of its elite,” continued Vazquez. “Our reporting, despite the government’s efforts to block it, is saving lives.”
According to a special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Cuba is the 10th most censored country in the world. Additionally, Cuba ranks 171st on Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index, citing the country’s media monopoly, the prohibition of privately-owned media, and the repression of domestic and foreign reporters.
In the face of such a censored information environment, OCB utilizes unique distribution techniques to get content on the island. In addition to satellite television and shortwave and AM radio, the network uses flash drives, emails, DVDs, text messages and its online platform, radiotelevisionmarti.com, to find ways around the Cuban government’s jamming efforts.
With the rise of 3G mobile service, expansion of internet access, and opening of digital platforms in Cuba, as well as the benefit of a recent review of its journalistic standards and practices, OCB has embarked on a strategic modernization effort to maximize its public service media mission.
And during these times of uncertainty, OCB and its Martí platforms remain committed – now more than ever – to providing timely, reliable, and lifesaving information to the Cuban people.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting oversees Radio and Television Martí at its headquarters in Miami, Florida. The Martís are a multimedia hub of news, information and analysis that provide the people of Cuba with interactive programs seven days a week through satellite television and shortwave and AM radio, as well as through flash drives, emails, DVDs, and SMS text. Combined with the online platform, martinoticias.com, the Martís are a one-of-a-kind service that brings unbiased, objective information to all Cubans.
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