The Five Cuban Political Prisoners And International Press Censorship

Why is the international press not discussing the case of the five Cuban political prisoners, which is in fact one of the greatest political and legal scandals of the century? How is it possible that a scandal of record-breaking sensationalism, adaptable to any kind of media coverage by its political and legal content, has been censored by the vast majority of media outlets in the west? How is it possible that, in the very hour of the « global war against terrorism », five young Cubans who risked their lives to prevent terrorist acts from being carried out against their country, were arrested, mistreated, and condemned to life imprisonment in the United States without this being mentioned by the media transnationals?1

To understand this, it is necessary to explain how the flow of information works. Everybody involved in the western press is governed by a concept established years ago by the masters of the universe, namely big capital, the owners of the majority of the information channels.

In reality, there is a predetermined framework of debate within the press, scrupulously laid down and religiously respected by all the major media players. Within this essentially doctrinal framework, overwhelmed by the dominant ideology, discussion can, and indeed must, take place to give the impression of pluralism of views, diversity of opinions and democracy. However, in reality this is just a trap, because it is tightly limited to conventional themes. The ideological framework only accepts conventional and superficial opinions and ideas which go with the flow and stick within the official line set by the dominant ideology. It is therefore never possible to get to the root of essential problems. The idea of raising fundamental questions is inconceivable.

The case of the five Cuban political prisoners has not been tackled in the international press because it stands outside the established framework. In a supposedly democratic press, it is not possible to address obvious phenomena, truisms of the first order, which could be published on the front page of every newspaper if there were any readiness to uncover the objective truth. It is not possible to say that Cuba is the country which has suffered the longest and fiercest terrorist campaign in modern history. Nor is it possible to point out that five patriotic Cubans are imprisoned in the USA for having fought against terrorism. Equally, it is not possible to point out that the main driving force of the relationship between Cuba and the USA has been the terrorist violence of the world super-power. One is disqualified from dealing with the most obvious questions, such as Cuba’s right to self-defence when confronted by aggression.

For many years, the international community has discussed the US economic blockade and has asked whether this is the best way of opening up politics in Cuba. The theme has been tackled as if it were a serious question. But it has not been, and still is not, a serious question. In reality, the real question asked by Washington is this: what measures is it advisable to take in order to achieve the complete annihilation of Cuba as a independent sovereign state ? That is the real question.

At the heart of the European Union, the debate about whether a policy of sanctions against Cuba would have positive effects leading to a « democratisation of the regime » has also arisen. This has been discussed and continues to be discussed as if it were a serious matter. But it is not at all serious. The real question is: what measures can Washington take to destroy the revolutionary Cuban project? What measures can the White House put in place to transform a sovereign country into a neo-colony, and to subjugate a free people?

In the international press, the most obvious questions are declared illegitimate, even unthinkable. The terrorism against Cuba has been erased from the record. Nobody questions the traditional policies intended to destroy the existence of a people. The crucial questions for Cuba’s survival are shamelessly censored, but on line with the established doctrinal framework.

In France, the major newspapers – whether right, left, or even communist (as is the case with L’Humanité) – are owned by large economic and financial groupings. Two multinationals – Dassault and Lagardère – whose main activity is the international arms trade (fighter jets, missiles, rockets) and whose trade is in war, control the press and publishing world. The Dassault group, whose president is the radical right-winger Serge Dassault, owns Socpresse, the major French press group, which publishes more than 70 newspapers and magazines including Le Figaro, L’Express and L’Expansion, and several dozen regional newspapers. (2)

As for the group belonging to Arnaud Lagardère, it controls around 47 newspapers, magazines and publishing houses, including Hachette, La Provence and Nice-Matin. It is the major editor in France (Grasset, Fayard, Stock). Needless to say, in addition to the financial control which this group has over its publications, it also exercises an extremely narrow editorial line, which raises several rather serious questions. The activity which brings profits to an arms multinational is war. How is this sensitive theme treated in its publications? Will there not be a risk of conflict of interest? Will the main purpose of these newspapers be the objective presentation of events? (3)

The most illustrative case is that of the French newspaper Libération. Once of a Maoist tendency, it was created by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in the 70s. For several years it has been running a deficit. In January 2005 the ultra-liberal banker Edouard de Rothschild took control of 37% of the capital and injected 20 million euros. What kind of independence can be enjoyed by a newspaper which is controlled by big capital? (4)

Why is economic and financial capital investing in the press, which is a particularly loss-making sector? It is economically absurd, but ideologically very effective. The aim of the investors is not to generate profit but to reduce the permitted conventional framework of “democratic” debate, a framework which is becoming increasingly totalitarian and superficial. It is totalitarian inasmuch as it does not accept alternative ideas, and superficial in that it never provides in-depth analysis of the issues.

The owner of Socpresse, Serge Dassault, has publicly admitted what his aims were in acquiring the newspaper Le Figaro. “I would like the newspaper, as far as possible, to give our businesses a better image. I think that sometimes information needs to be treated with caution. There are for example articles which discuss contracts which are currently being negotiated. There is information which does more harm than good. The risk is of damaging the commercial or industrial interests of our country.” (5) M. Dassault has thus personally admitted that the role of the press is to defend the specific interests of his group and to develop its propaganda work in favour of “healthy ideas”, to use his own term, which promote ultra-liberal ideological dogmas.

The most obvious example of propaganda is the US television chain Fox news, owned by the multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch, which has been turned into the most fearsome machine for media distortion. At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq by the North American troops, Fox News broadcast the most palpable disinformation originating directly from the White House.

In reality, what we usually call the “international democratic press” is a tyrannical and reactionary world which no longer constitutes a Fourth Estate whose duty is to denounce abuses of legal, executive and judicial power. These days, the press world serves the agenda of privileged groups and defends the interests of the economic and political elite. That is why it is right to claim in all objectivity that the dominant press is a threat to democracy.

Translated by Barbara & David Forbes


1 Salim Lamrani (ed.), Superpower Principles. U.S. Terrorism against Cuba (Monroe, Maine : Common Courage Press, 2005). www.commoncouragepress.com , www.amazon.com

2 Ignacio Ramonet, “Médias en crise”, Le Monde Diplomatique, January 2005 : 1,26, 27.

3 Ibid.

4 Renaud Revel, “Libération est le socle d’un groupe de presse”, L’Express, 31 January 2005.

5 Bertrand d’Armagnac, “Les interventions de Serge Dassault inquiètent la rédaction du ’Figaro’”, Le Monde, 9 September 2005.

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