When on March 16, the First Course of the Bloggers Academy of Cuba ended, which began in Havana in mid-October 2009, Yoani Sánchez, Reinaldo Escobar and other teachers and participants endorsed the need to return the initiative to citizens and break the monopoly of state information; this is suffocating the country by the dependence and manipulation of journalists who reproduced the official truth and denigrate the opposition across a network of stations, newspapers, magazines and television channels.
The Academy, like the platform Cuban Voices, was conceived as an independent space, horizontal and interactive, without hierarchies or rigid programs. It met twice a week from 9am to 2pm, with an enrollment of 24 students and 6 teachers, almost all bloggers or people aspiring to open a blog. Among the subjects taught included Interactive Journalism (Reinaldo Escobar), Ethics and the Law (Wilfredo Vallin), Cuban Culture (Miriam Celaya), Blogpost (Claudia Cadelo), Word Press (Yoani Sanchez), and Photography (Claudio Fuentes Madan).
The first course continued the Blogger Journey organized by Yoani, Reinaldo and other communicators who disseminate blogética in Cuba and empower citizen journalists with the latest technologies of cyberspace, because, on the island, the government limits access to the Internet and imposes luxury prices in the hotels and cybercafes, while it creates webpages that the networks saturate with the libels of power.
The Blogger Academy, the only one of its kind in Cuba, was recognized by national and foreign personalities, who spoke on civil society, the Church, the economy, the role of new technologies in contemporary society and the use of the Internet in Latin America. Several sessions were filmed by journalists and cameramen from Germany, Spain, Italy, England, Sweden, Holland, USA, Mexico, Peru and Japan, who interviewed Yoani Sánchez, Claudia Cadelo, Miriam Celaya, Eugenio Leal and the other alternative netizens.
International recognition moved in parallel with the verbal assaults of employees of the island press and the siege of the agents of the political police. Fear of the initiatives of those who adopt a social voice was revealed in the media campaigns against the famous Yoani Sánchez, whose blog (Generation Y) became a global public forum for debate, although it is blocked in Cuba, where the communist government monopolizes socio-political life and controls the economy, education, culture and the media.
Between classes and exchanges, those who attended the Blogger Academy received audio-visual materials and texts such as “The revolution in 140 characters”, “Can there be participatory journalism?”, “Tips on how to write on Twitter”, “10 steps for online citizen journalism”, “What is cyberactivism?”, the “Short glossary of Internet terms”, the Manual for uploading videos to YouTube and “10 Tips for writing a good blog”; also “The masters of photography” and documents on freedom of expression, the responsibility of the press and due process in Cuban penal law, routinely violated by the legal system itself and by the police and State Security.
The classes on Cuban Culture explored the ethnohistorical roots of the nation and its links with Spain and America; while the conferences on Ethics and the Law were a review of universal concepts and the progress of society. Word Press sessions, more practical and complex technical classes, represented a challenge to novice bloggers, eight of whom opened their blogs using this medium, bringing to 26 the list of Cuban Voices, led by Yoani Sánchez, a victim of beatings in the streets of Havana in November 2009 and February 2010.
With the flowers and rains of spring, the Blogger Academy sessions ended; its teachers and students fertilize the nation from the self-confidence of their posts and illustrations. If technology undermines the totalitarianism and democratizes information, citizen journalism smashes against censorship and acquires wings to fly on the net. Thank you, friends, for spreading knowledge and hope.
Translated by: CIMF