03/16/13 - Miami Herald - Yoani Sánchez's shield in Cuba: hidden technology
She is small and slight, but I expected that.
She was direct and gracious, and, that, too, I expected. I had been told,
by people who know her well, that she was warm and kind, and, above all,
very Cuban. Cubanísima. And, yes, I now see that too.
What surprised me was that she admitted to being very afraid. Every day.
She used a more prosaic, Cuban term to describe her fear, and we all
laughed. But just a little. Mostly, we stood in silence, in awe of this
37-year-old woman, mother of a teenager, who could stand up to a government
and to her detractors with an aplomb and a dignity that belie her fears and
challenge all of our - all of my - notions of what is possible inside Cuba,
inside a dictatorship.
Yoani Sánchez told us of her fears in private, though knowing she was
surrounded by journalists at a get-together in my home shortly after our
talk Thursday night with students at Columbia University's Graduate School
of Journalism. Josh Friedman, a colleague and a Pulitzer Prize winning
reporter, introduced her that night. And from the podium he proclaimed that
Yoani was, indeed, a journalist. He didn't call her a blogger or a
dissident or an activist, but one of us.
I've never felt prouder to be a journalist, especially to be a journalist
in the 21st century. To be part of a profession that has room for people
like Yoani Sánchez, who uses the very technology that is challenging
traditional journalism to show us that, indeed, the profession retains its
power and its ability to change the world. When she was attacked in Brazil
by a pro-Castro mob, her Twitter account increased by 35,000 followers, she
How can the Cuban government possibly stop this? At no other time in
history have dictators faced a tool as dangerous for their survival as the
Internet. They may curtail access- as they do in Cuba - but that doesn't
stop the message from getting out, and returning to the island through the
boomerang effect of social media.
Years ago, when I began to write about political prisoners in Cuba, it
would take months for news of their hunger strikes or beatings to reach
Miami or Washington. Frank Calzón, a veteran human rights activist in
Washington, D.C., and an admirer of Yoani, remembers how the messages were
sometimes written in tiny handwriting on pieces of paper torn from Granma,
the only newspaper the prisoners had access to. The irony of it was
delicious, but too slow to make a difference. By the time Calzón and others
found out, it was old news, though even then it found echo among those in
the media who cared and were paying attention to the island.
Now, of course, if Yoani sneezes in Havana, the world hears about it in
seconds. That's her shield. That's our responsibility as fellow
journalists. And that's the beauty of this brave, new world of journalism
where 140 characters don't replace a fully reported, nuanced story, but can
alert us to one, and perhaps even save a life.
No matter how the message is delivered - 140 characters or 25 inches of
copy - the important thing continues to be the message. And Yoani delivers
her truth better than most.
I asked her how she learned to write so well. She said that, at the
beginning, her husband, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, had helped her think
like a reporter. But that her true school was the 14 years she earned her
living as a guide and translator to foreigners who visited Cuba. Through
their questions, she began to see the island as outsiders might. When she
writes, she said, she looks at her copy from two sides: the insider and the
foreigner, or as the writer and as the reader.
She has said she became " periodista a la carrera, no de carrera." Not a
career journalist, but one shaped in a rush. It makes more sense in Spanish
because of the play on words, but what she really means is that journalism
is the only venue that allows her to do what she can for her country. And
let there be no doubt: her passion for democracy is profound, but what
drives it all is her love for Cuba.
During the talk with the students, she was brilliant and poised, as usual,
and it was clear that she relishes talking to young, thoughtful people who
ask intelligent and probing questions. What can we do, one asked, for the
journalists of Cuba? Send cell phones, computers, flash drives, Yoani said.
Anything that promotes communication, openness, freedom.
And that is the essence of good journalism: transparency and
accountability. Yoani demands both from the government of Cuba, because to
settle for anything else would be a betrayal not only of her principles but
also of what she knows the people of Cuba deserve.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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