During his TV show on RT (Russia Today), Conversando con Correa (Speaking with Correa), the former President of Ecuador interviewed communist Spanish politician Pablo Iglesias. Iglesias supports Chavismo in Venezuela and ran for president in Spain under the left-wing party, Podemos.
Correa opened his show saying: “Since the invention of the printing press, freedom of the press depends on the will of the owner”. This statement is commonly credited to Correa, but he claims to have hear it from the current Cuban dictator, Raul Castro, who inherited the throne from his brother, Fidel.
Iglesias countered that, in fact, the statement goes back to the XIX century and is credited to both Marx and Engels.
In other words, using concepts recycled by contemporary tyrants from the creators of the ‘scientific socialism’ framework, one can conclude the free press is in fact an oligarchical-monopoly.
For Iglesias, the media is managed by rich men who decide what content can be published or not. This oligarchy is defined as a “small group of people that has the power in a given social, economic and political sector.”
The irony is that the statement Correa credits, where the press depends upon the owner’s will, to Raul Castro–the ruler of a country where there is only one newspaper authorized by the state: Granma.
Cuba has been a socialist state for decades, and there’s not only a complete lack of freedom of the press but all that is printed must be previously authorized by the government. Those who publish controversial content are prosecuted.
Critical journalists are even banned from leaving the country, labeling them as “counter revolutionaries”, because they compromise the regime’s“image” and international propaganda.
Correa himself was openly an enemy of the press during his tenure as president of Ecuador. He took a newspaper to court over an article that was critical of him, and the members of the newspaper board were sentenced to jail and a $40 million dollar fine.
But that was not all. Correa also seized television-media assets and nationalized newspapers, which now follow the state propaganda line. The papers now have losses that amount $23 million dollars of taxpayer’s money.
Correa also quoted Antonio Gramsci, an Italian intellectual whom he called “a great Marxist”, and who said that great media is owned by international capital.
Between laughs, he compared the press with a Spanish colony, where the King was unquestionable, completely overlooking the similarities of an authoritarian monarch who doesn’t accept criticism to his own or Castro’s role as chief of state–a role Pablo Iglesias could also play if he reached power.
Correa and his television guest don’t take into account the fact that having private media does not prevent competition, especially in the social media era where everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion.
But if the government dominates, coordinates and restricts what people are saying, when, how, and overall, who says it, we find ourselves before a true monopoly. Those who control it have the power to punish any conduct considered offensive, or as Castro’s supporters say: “counter revolutionary.”
In this regard, Che Guevara once said: “We have to put an end to all newspapers. A revolution can’t be achieved with freedom of press.”
“Power has to do with economy, with public services, and if information is a public service, information should also be democratized,” Iglesias said.
Correa added: “Supposedly public services are crucial for society and must be granted by the state.” And insisted that during his presidency he had problems by professing that “social communication is a public service.”
Despite his hostile comments about opponents during mandated national broadcasts, when he pointed out their private information and called for confrontations on social media, during his show on RT, funded by Russian government, he said that information shouldn’t be ‘violated.’
For both politicians, information and freedom of speech must be controlled. “It is not understood that all freedom has a limit,” Correa said. Because, according to them, “when the information is commercialized and becomes an object owned by someone, it is put at risk.”
Meaning that, instead of being a service that people access voluntarily, according to their own criteria, they are proposing it must be controlled, and therefore, conditioned, authorized and then distributed.
Faithful to their populist speech, they see a villain -in this case the press owner- and proclaim themselves as the heroes that will confront him.