Whatâ€™s in a name?
The assumption of the cachet Reporters Without Borders twenty years ago, in conscious parody of the then above reproach international humanitarian Doctors Without Borders, certainly lent Robert Menardâ€™s group more than a touch of automatic respectability from the get-go.
The appellation gave the group acceptance as an unbiased investigative human rights organization defending journalists all over the world. When honest reporting can bring threats, attacks, prison terms, and even death, such an organization is badly needed. Sadly, the true nature of Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res (RSF=French acronym) is far otherwise.
Unbiased? Non-politically affiliated?
RSF does report on some discrimination against journalists, but in a very selective way, that is, targeting nations on the US State Department “hit list”: Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc., while ignoring any and all anti-journalist activities in areas allied with the US, and of course, never in the US itself.
For three examples of many to give the idea: RSF does not defend reporters in the Phillippines, which is the second deadliest nation for journalists after Iraq but is a strong ally of the US military. RSF completely ignores Mumia abu Jamal, a US reporter on death row and the object of support from “other” human rights organizations all over the globe. And in a recent interview, despite his very close ties with the Cuban-American community in Miami, RSF director Robert Menard claimed to be completely “unfamiliar” with the case of the Cuban Five. The Five, one of whom is a Cuban journalist, are serving life sentences in US prisons for infiltrating these Miami groups to prevent terrorist attacks on their homeland.1
This denial ties into the major activity (time, money and propaganda campaigns) of RSF, which is defaming the Cuban Revolution, trying to prevent European tourists from visiting the Island, and serving as a news agency and defender for “dissident reporters”. The latter, according to Nestor Baguer -founder of the Independent Cuban Journalist Association, their reporter of longest duration, and the main Cuban representative of RSF, who later revealed himself as a Cuban security agent- were “neither journalists nor dissidents”2, but mercenaries paid to write as dictated by the RSF, the US Interest Section in Havana, and Florida-based hate groups.
RSF, in Menardâ€™s own words in an interview in 2000, has always considered Cuba the priority in Latin America, even giving the country a lower ranking on its press freedom index than countries where journalists routinely have been killed, such as Colombia, Peru and Mexico.3
Although incurious about the fate of journalists in Venezuela before President Hugo Chavez, RSF was very quick to support the coup dâ€™etat against him, of course it had to be as the coup was very brief. Menardâ€™s group has since been outspoken against what it alleges to be anti-freedom of the press legislation in Venezuela, without evidently having read said legislation, and while incidently having a close relationship with Venezuelan multi-millionaire media giant Gustavo Cisneros.
Haiti is another example of the bias of this theoretically unbiased group. Menard denounced supposed “acts of repression” against local independent media under Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, while completely failing to notice aggressions by anti-government groups against journalists of Radio SolidaritÃ© and Radio Ginen.
Even in Iraq, where RSF does report deaths and kidnaping of journalists by insurgents, its “investigation” and subsequent whitewashing of the culpability of the US military in the death of the Spanish reporter-cameraman in the infamous Palestine Hotel attack outraged his family. The US tank operator admitted firing under orders from superiors, but RSF, whose interviewer was a personal friend of the officer giving the order, found the shots were fired by “persons unknown”. The journalistâ€™s family asked RSF to withdraw from the case; a request it ignored.
Follow the money
While Robert Menard may be personally obsessed with Cuba and other countries that the US frowns upon, he is certainly paid well for this obsession. As Jean-Guy Allard has admirably researched in detail, RSF receives the preponderance of its funding from organizations corresponding with the CIA, filtered directly or indirectly, such as USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the US Interest Section in Havana, and Cuban-American anti-Cuba groups in Miami.4
Menard has also finally admitted his bond with Nancy PÃ©rez Crespo, operator of the rabid anti-Cuba Radio MambÃ in Miami, who receives funds from said US establishments.
World journalists are in dire need of a true unbiased human rights organization that will protect them no matter where they are attacked or by whom, unfortunately Reporters Without Borders is not that organization.
1 Excellent source of information on Cuban Five at www.freethefive.org
2 Elizalde, Rosa Miriam and Baez, Luis, Los Disidentes,Editora Politica, La Habana, 2003.
3 Barahona, Diana, “Cubaâ€™s Economy, Reporters Without Borders Unmasked”, Counterpunch,www.counterpunch.org, 2005
4 Allard, Jean-Guy, Por Qu
Ã© Reporteros sin Fronteras se ensaÃ±a con Cuba El dossier Robert MÃ©nard, Lanctot, Quebec, 2005.