HAVANA – Cuban journalist Julio Batista, the winner of the King of Spain Journalism Award for his reporting on pollution from the island’s main distillery, is confident that the prize will help to provide visibility for the work of alternative media outlets that have emerged in Cuba in recent years.
The 28-year-old Batista was honored on Thursday with the environmental journalism award for his work entitled “The Dead Waters of Havana Club,” the result of an “exhaustive nine-month investigation” and appearing in Periodismo de Barrio, an online alternative media outlet published on the communist island since 2015.
“Now the world is taking note that Cuban journalism is much richer, much broader and much more interesting than five years ago when the alternative media began speaking up in Cuba,” Batista, a member of the editorial council of Periodismo de Barrio, told EFE.
In Cuba, the press is state-run and controlled by the Communist Party, although for several years the Internet has been a breeding ground for other media actors who are developing a more independent style of journalism, given that the online environment is no longer regulated on the island.
The article tells about how waste from the distillery some 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Havana, where the famous Havana Club rum is manufactured for export, has caused alarming levels of pollution in the Chipriona inlet, which is now bathed in foul-smelling water where no fish can live.
The journalist said that one of the main difficulties in researching and writing the story was access to sources, since because he does not work for a state-run media outlet or have official press credentials it is very complicated to contact official accredited sources.
The idea for the story occurred to Julio four years ago, although it was only about 18 months ago that he decided to embark on the project and devote all the time necessary to investigating the matter and gathering documentation.
Batista graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Havana in 2013.
The annual King of Spain Journalism Award – now in its 35th year – comes with a cash prize of 6,000 euros (about $7,400) and a sculpture by artist Joaquin Vaquero Turcios. It is sponsored by the OHL construction company and awarded by Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency, the country’s agency for international cooperation and development (AECID) and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.