Human Rights in Cuba

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New Face of Cuba’s Official Online Newspaper
March 31, 2014
Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — On March 13, a new version of Cuba’s Granma newspaper
website went online. The most attractive feature of the new, more
dynamic page design is the possibility of posting comments on published
articles.

Till now, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party had a
website with a static and visually awful platform, far behind other
Cuban government pages, such as Cubadebate, Cubasi and newspaper sites
such as Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde.

The digital version of the weekly Granma Internacional, which came
online in August of 1996, was the first Cuban press site. The
online edition of the newspaper (which has now been fused with Granma
International) became available as a digital publication in July of 1997.

According to Granma, the new staff of designers sought to make the site
“modern, respond to the demands of new information and communication
technologies and any platform used to convey news, in order to inform
the public quickly and truthfully, sharing news content in such a way
that users aren’t mere passive receivers of information, but also the
main sources of such content.”

The current Internet platform of Cuba’s official newspaper relies on a
“dynamic framework” that employs a modern “content manager”. This allows
for updating from different places, regardless of circumstances. Tablet
and smartphone versions of the site have also been released.

The new website also affords a range of editorial solutions that “allows
decision-makers to act, not only expediently, but also intelligently.
This holds for the editing of a given text and for the way it is
presented to the user, with emphasis on the classification of the
materials to be uploaded.”

In addition to improved design, better content organization, responsive
design, performance, increased cache and the availability of 2.0
applications, a portion of the published news can be read in English,
French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

The Face and the Body Aren’t Always the Same

Granma’s new young staff introduced itself to readers through an article
titled “Granma.cu, nuestra nueva cara en la red” (“Granma.cu: Our New
Face on the Internet”).

On this occasion, Granma journalists didn’t quote Marx, Lenin or Fidel
Castro. Rather, in keeping with the new times, they turned to the East
and invoked Mahatma Gandhi, in a phrase that reads: “We would do many
things if we believed that fewer things were impossible.”

As though that weren’t enough, the communist staff of Granma shared a
phrase written by Confucius in 551 AD: “whoever aspires to constant
happiness and wisdom must adjust to frequent changes.”

Fortunately, the information acknowledges the fact that “these new tools
facilitate the management of the site but do not of themselves write,
investigate or express opinions. These, it said, require the
professionalism and commitment of a higher form of journalism,” in
keeping with the appeals made by President .

The impact Cuba’s recently appointed First Vice-President Miguel
Diaz-Canel working towards a change in the methods of the national
press, is fairly obvious.

That said, the newspaper continues to be prepared at Poligrafico Granma
(“Granma Publishing House”), where all the country’s national
newspapers, including those read in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa, are
published.

Nor has Granma changed its fundamental objective, which isn’t to inform
the public (as one would expect of a newspaper), but to “promote,
through its articles and comments, the work of the revolution and its
principles, the achievements reached by our people and the integrity and
cohesion of our people around the Party and Fidel,” as the page “About
Us” announces.

Another indication that the “body” hasn’t changed is that the initiative
to modernize Granma will be extended to Juventud Rebelde, through the
same team of designers, commented Diaz-Canel in a recent interview.

I must acknowledge that slightly fresher articles written by young
people can now be found in the newspaper’s Opinions column. These,
however, aren’t published in the privileged spaces, which are still
reserved for the familiar praise for the current state of things on the
island.

The Communist Party Now Accepts Comments

After two weeks online, it is clear that the editors of Granma are
willing to publish comments expressing criteria opposed to those of the
article and even opinions that are fairly critical of the government’s
general policies.

An article that announced the appointment a new chair of the National
Association of Small Farmers, for instance, showed several comments
criticizing the PCC’s meddling in an autonomous farmers’ organization
and the Party’s tendency to appoint leaders who had no direct experience
in the field.

Flattering comments continue to be the immense majority for the time
being, though a group of cybernauts seems to have discovered this new
possibility and timidly begin to post their criticisms.

Generally speaking, Internet users supportive of Granma have
acknowledged that the change was necessary and appear to be pleased by
the opportunity to share their comments.

In addition, Granma designers have implemented a number of changes
suggested by readers and replied to a number of comments, giving signs
of a willingness to converse with the public (at least on matters that
aren’t explicitly political).

Cuba’s extremely limited Internet access could be the reason these new
spaces have been opened, in one of the few sites that didn’t allow for
public participation until recently.

It is worth pointing out that several users who use Cuba’s national
network connection (Infomed) left comments expressing their
dissatisfaction with the slowness of the connection and the amount of
time it took to open the different news pages.

That dissenting opinions are still treated with a measure of
apprehension is revealed by the fact that, once articles are published
on the main page, only a selection of the comments made are left – the
majority are positive and a small number of them (usually the worst
arguments) are negative.

Regardless, we should pay attention to these shy steps and what they
could mean for the future: a move towards an acceptable model of free
press for the island, or a mere disguise used to conceal the censorship
mechanism we know so well.

Source: New Face of Cuba’s Official Online Newspaper – Havana Times.org
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102701

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