Happy 25th, Radio Marti! 

Hard to believe that it’s been a quarter of a century since “Buenas dias Cuba” started off Radio Marti’s first broadcast to Cuba. The all-news station and its sister TV and Internet outlets have been broadcasting news to a country Freedom House ranks as one of the 10 countries with the most restrictive media environments – and one of the 10 worst for bloggers.

Despite the Cuban government’s continuing efforts to jam its broadcasts, Radio Marti still dishes out three daily half-hour programs featuring political dissidents, independent journalists and pro-democracy advocates.

Unfortunately, in the 25 years Radio Marti has been on the air, not much has changed since PBS’ Robert MacNeil asked Cuban President Fidel Castro whether there was
“anybody in jail simply because his political beliefs are – he dissents from you politically?”

Castro (through an interpreter) replied: “No one. Not because of political beliefs, nor because of religious beliefs that are in prison.”

Freed Cuban dissidents José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, Omar Pernet Hernández, Alejandro González and Pedro Pablo Álvarez would beg to differ.

In 2008, they described being subjected to brutal beatings, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and water and lack of medical care at the hands of Cuban jailers, estimating that there are still 250 political prisoners languishing in the regime’s dingy prison cells.

“We are nothing more than a reflection of the human cost of the fight being waged by the Cuban people,” said Castillo, a journalist who was arrested for writing critical articles of the Castro regime.

Twenty-five years from now, Radio Marti will hopefully be the victim of its own success.

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