Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, 2014 winner
Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina is an independent journalist and producer in Cuba who oversees a small group of video journalists through his independent press agency, Palenque Visión. Working with limited technological resources, independent journalists travel the island and risk imprisonment to document stories focusing on health, social issues, the environment, sports, freedom of expression, and other issues that directly impact Cubans.
Lobaina believes the best way to empower Cubans is to grant them access to free and reliable information. To that end, he founded one of the first independent press agencies on the island in 2012, Palenque Visión. His team, “The boys of Palenque,” as Lobaina calls his team, are spread across the island nation. They use amateur cameras, have never studied editing and have seen few seminal films, but their passion for showing the lives of Cubans leads them to produce quality reports, the likes of which are the envy of the national television network.
In 2012 after Hurricane Sandy devastated the eastern part of Cuba, the production team of Palenque Visión traveled to document how citizens were struggling with the lack of first aid and basic necessities from the Cuban Government. Lobaina also routinely reports via Twitter on arrests, beatings and acts of repudiation of dissidents, has served six years in Cuban prisons and has been arrested repeatedly by Cuban authorities for being an activist for democracy.
“The story of common Cuban citizens had to be told,” said Lobaina. “What we were trying to tell the international community was, in simple terms, ‘This is how Cubans live… and this is how we can make their voices be heard, the voices that demand respect for the rights of others as well as for themselves.’”
Carlos A. García, the Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), said that “the work of Rodríguez Lobaina and his production company Palenque Visión has been essential to creating the free flow of information on the island since, thanks to his effort, tenacity and courage, we have managed to report events from remote places in Cuba which rarely reach the foreign media.”
“His reports have illustrated the way of life of many Cubans, their daily problems and their thoughts on the future of Cuba. Each of them is a powerful weapon for Cubans to keep informed about what is happening in their country,” García concluded.