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The Lies Of Reporters Without Borders


Translated by Diana Barahona

In a July 6, 2005 statement, Reporters without Borders (RSF) responded to charges related to its obsession with Cuba, its hidden links to the U.S. government and certain multinationals, as well as its relationship with organizations which carry out dubious activities–including some closely linked to international terrorism.1

According to the organization lead by Robert Ménard, “freedom of the press does not exist” in Cuba, since “information continues to be a monopoly of the State.”2 Cuban journalists are therefore either too utterly incompetent to understand the reality of their country or they are lackeys taking orders from the government in Havana and incapable of deviating from the official line. As a result, the intellectual product of these journalists is unworthy of notice and does not deserve a bit of credit–only indifference and disdain. This judgement reveals a deep ignorance of the Cuban press, which in many respects is freer and more open than the Western media owned by large economic and financial groups.3

For example, the supposedly free international press has not bothered to broach the subject of terrorism against Cuba and the matter of Luis Posada Carriles, the notorious criminal currently enjoying U.S. protection.4 In the same way, the scandalous matter of the five Cubans imprisoned in the U.S. for fighting terrorism has been completely suppressed by the major media.5 Terrorist violence against Cuba is tacitly accepted through a pernicious censorship.

RSF tries to justify its attacks on Cuba by the fact that “21 journalists are still imprisoned in extremely difficult conditions.”6 There also the organization distorts reality when it takes up the grotesque propaganda campaign, orchestrated by Washington, which transforms agents on the pay of the U.S. into “journalists.”

Nevertheless, the arguments put forth by the Parisian organization suffer from several defects and do not stand up to analysis.

In Cuba, 156 foreign correspondents representing 126 press organizations from 37 countries are accredited to work.7 These professionals enjoy all of the material conveniences and connections necessary to carry out their activities. From this standpoint, it is curious to hear RSF and several international media outlets speak about “independent” journalists. If Cuba needs “independent” journalists, that would be the equivalent not only of calling Cuban professionals incompetent, but the 156 international journalists as well, since they are apparently incapable of doing their job properly. Perhaps this is the reason why “independent” Cuban journalists are obliged to intervene–to make up for the professional deficiencies of the international reporters who are not astute enough to grasp Cuban reality.

In the same way, RSF does not explain why Elizardo Sánchez and Oswaldo Payá, the two most active, virulent and high-profile “dissidents”, also called “independent journalists”, have never had serious problems with the Cuban justice system, nor have they spent a night behind bars. It is enough to simply compare the writings and statements of these two individuals with those of the “21 imprisoned journalists” to realize that the latter, compared to Sánchez and Payá, are extremely moderate opponents–not to say choirboys.8

Nor does RSF answer a common-sense question: Why did the Cuban authorities run the risk of unleashing worldwide media condemnation and diplomatic conflicts with the European Union by jailing “journalists”, completely unknown to Cubans and the international press before their arrest, if they had not committed any crime?9

Another explanation, evident but carefully avoided by the organization, is more plausible: on the one hand, the “independent journalists” championed by RSF are not journalists, since they have never received any training in the profession. On the other hand, there is nothing “independent” about them since they were discovered meeting regularly at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, where they would receive instructions and collect their payments. It is this financing coming from a foreign power that is prohibited by Cuban law, and not their “independent” intellectual product. The facts were amply proven during the trials of March and April of 2003.10

The charges filed by Cuban authorities are supported by the testimony of 12 Cuban security agents who had infiltrated groups of “dissidents” and “independent journalists.” They are also proven by the innumerable documents compiled by these agents.11 But in case some, such as Ménard, U.S. officials and the Cuban extreme right in Florida, were to go to the extreme of claiming that all of this is pure invention of the “Castro regime”, official State Department documents corroborate these charges. In effect, according to the report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, signed by Colin Powell, approximately $50 million are budgeted for “support of the democratic opposition and strengthening of the emerging civil society” in Cuba.12

Since the triumph of the revolution in 1959, the United States has put policies in place to manufacture an opposition in Cuba. For example, during a National Security Council meeting on January 14, 1960, Assistant Secretary of State Livingston Merchant said, “Our goal is to adjust all of our actions with a view to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba…” On his part, the assistant secretary for inter-American affairs, Roy Rubottom, said that “the approved program authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro government while making Castro’s downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.”13

In the same way, on June 19, 1963, Kennedy approved the “Integrated plan of covert action” which aimed to “maintain all possible pressure on Cuba and create and exploit situations in Cuba calculated to stimulate dissident elements in the regime.”14 This policy is still in force.

RSF also tries to justify its obsession with Cuba saying that “the foreign press is also watched in Cuba”, and cites as an example the expulsion of two journalists–one Polish and one Italian–carrying tourist visas.15 They had broken the law when they tried to cover the congress of Cuban “dissidents” without press visas. RSF justifies that violation by saying the journalists would not have been able to obtain press visas.16 But here also, RSF does not explain why tens of foreign correspondents and several diplomats, including the head of the U.S. Interests Section, James Cason, attended the congress without any problems.17

The French organization which “defends freedom of the press” claims it does not single out Cuba. Nonetheless, RSF does not explain why for at least the past two years the only country which has earned a special page on its trilingual web site is Cuba.18 Nor does it say why the only media campaigns launched in France and internationally to discourage tourism (as Powell’s report confirms)19 stigmatize only Cuba20, while according to its own criteria–more ideological than objective–the biggest jailer of journalists in the world is China.21 Ménard has never asked the European Union to sanction China for violating the rights of journalists as he has done in the case of Cuba.22 Nor does the group’s secretary general explain why he meets with fascist organizations in Florida, arch-enemies of the Cuban revolution who are implicated in international terrorism.23

The organization’s “World Press Freedom Ranking” of October 2004 raises a lot of questions.24 Why does China, where 26 journalists are incarcerated, have a higher ranking than Cuba–162 versus 166? Why does Iraq (148), where 44 journalists had been killed from the start of the conflict until October 2004, rank higher than Cuba, where not one single journalist has been killed since 1959? Why do Brasil (66), Haiti (125), Mexico (96), Peru (124), where several journalists were murdered, rate higher than Cuba?25 Why does the situation of press workers in Colombia, where, according to RSF, five journalists lost their lives in 2004, where some 60 were kidnapped and where around 20 had to leave the region, only merit a “difficult” rating, while the situation in Cuba is rated “very serious”?26 Why does the text accompanying the 2003 index focus entirely on Cuba with the title, “Cuba second from last, just ahead of North Korea”27, instead of a more appropriate title such as, “North Korea last” or “Finland first”? Can RSF still claim it does not single out Cuba?

Ménard denies he receives money from Washington but admits to receiving grants from the Center for a Free Cuba.28 He neglects to mention, however, that this organization is financed by the U.S. through USAID and the NED.29 He does not emphasize the fact that it is directed by Frank Calzón, a member of the extreme fascist Cuban right, former leader of a student group, Abdala, which later turned to terrorism, and former director of the Cuban American National Foundation, which in 1997 would finance terrorist attacks against the Cuban tourism industry costing the life of a young Italian tourist.30

Nor does the secretary general of RSF mention that the Center for a Free Cuba, by its own statutes, is dedicated to the overthrow of the Cuban government.31 In the same way, Ménard admits to receiving funding from the NED, which is administered by the State Department and whose role is to carry out the agenda of the White House.32 So Ménard is directly financed by the Cuban extreme right and indirectly by the United States.

RSF claims with pomp and circumstance that the fact that it receives funding from U.S. foundations–themselves created and funded by Washington-does not prevent it from “denouncing abuses by the U.S. Army against journalists in Iraq.” “The organization also published a detailed report about the firing of a tank shell on the Palestine Hotel which cost the lives of two journalists in April of 2003.”33 Here Ménard’s organization is referring to the premeditated murder of Spanish cameraman José Couso and his Ukranian colleague Taras Protsyuk, perpetrated by U.S. soldiers. What RSF does not say is that the report, published on January 15, 2004, exonerates the US. military of all blame for the crime. The open letter sent by the family of José Couso to RSF is instructive:

“The Couso family, in response to the report published by Reporters without Borders ‘Two murders and a lie’, wishes to state the following:

“The conclusions of this report exculpate the acknowledged perpetrators of the shelling of the Palestine Hotel on the basis of the dubious impartiality of embedded reporters and the testimony of those responsible for the shelling, transferring responsibility to unidentified individuals.

“The report was signed by a journalist, Jean Paul Mari, who has a known relationship with Col. Phillip de Camp, who acknowledged his involvement in the attack and the deaths of the journalists at the Palestine Hotel. Furthermore, the report is supported by the testimony of three journalists embedded with U.S. troops, all of them U.S. citizens; one of them, Chris Tomlinson, having worked for U.S. Army intelligence for more than seven years. None of the Spanish journalists in the hotel has been consulted for the writing of this report.

“The report contains numerous errors, contradictions and irregularities in reference to important facts such as the location of the rooms at the hotel, the site of impact of the shell, the location of witnesses, etc.

“Furthermore, the very ‘human’ biography of the killers of José Couso Permuy and Taras Protsyuk seems completely insensitive, the offense culminating with the thanking of these U.S. soldiers for their cooperation in the report.

“Reporters without Borders (Spanish Section) requested to join the complaint filed by the family on May 27, 2003, against those responsible for the death of José Couso. After the release of this report which, according to its version, excuses them from responsibility in the murder of the journalists at the Palestine Hotel, it is absolutely illogical and contradictory that their organization continues to be a party to the public action in the open proceedings of the National Tribunal.

“For this reason we express the wish of the family that they withdraw their request for standing as a party to the public action in the open proceedings of the National Tribunal.”34

Contrary to its claims, RSF has never really denounced the abuses committed by military troops in Iraq. It has even implicitly supported the illegal and murderous invasion, saying that “the overthrow of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein ended 30 years of official propaganda and has opened a new era of freedom, full of hope and uncertainty, for Iraqi journalists.” The organization adds that “for the Iraqi media, decades of zero press freedom ended with the bombing of the Ministry of Information on April 9 in Baghdad.”35 These words do not come from a Pentagon press release or from the statements of Donald Rumsfeld, but from RSF’s 2004 report on Iraq.

But for Ménard, those who deviate from the ideological framework established by the media, who dare to deal with fundamental issues and question the official line with regards to Cuba are no more than “Castro fans” whose “bad faith” is equal to the “disinformation” they propagate. These “crusaders of the Castro revolution”, as the Parisian organization calls them, do not deserve any attention and even pose a threat to the RSF’s mission. Here the invective and the insults towards people who commit the unforgivable sin of exposing the true activities of the organization “defending press freedom” replace demonstrative argument.36

According to the dominant ideology, the norm consists of endorsing, through a criminal silence, the merciless U.S. attacks on the Cuban population. For RSF, anyone who dares point out the intolerable, that is to say nearly half a century of terrorism, of economic sanctions, of political and economic warfare, of unending subversion and of propaganda against Cuba, is nothing but a Castro fanatic who is completely disconnected from reality.

After the odious attacks in London on July 7, 2005, committed against innocent civilians, the whole world rightfully observed two minutes of silence for the victims. Unfortunately the 3,478 Cubans murdered by similar atrocious acts organized by the United States for over 45 years did not enjoy this privilege.

Notes

1 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, July 6, 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14350 (site consulted July 15, 2005).

2 Ibid.

3 More than 30 newspapers and magazines in Cuba deal with all kind of problems, among these, La Jiribilla and Juventud Rebelde.

4 Michael A. Fletcher, ” U.S. Asylum Sought by Cuban Tied to Terror Cases “, The Washington Post, April 13, 2005, p. A02.

5 Salim Lamrani (editor), Superpower Principles : U.S. Terrorism against Cuba (Monroe, Maine : Common Courage Press, 2005).

6 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, op.cit.

7 Official figures for December 1, 2004, email send to Salim Lamrani by the international service of Radio Havana Cuba, July 20, 2005.

8 El Nuevo Herald, ” Mensaje de Payá destaca que en la isla hay desaparecidos “, March 18, 2005, p. 23A.

9 El Nuevo Herald, ” Europa mantendrá la presión diplomática “, June 11, 2004.

10 Rosa Miriam Elizalde & Luis Baez, “Los Disidentes” (Havana : Editora Política, 2003).

11 Ibid.

12 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, mai 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (site consulted May 7, 2004), p. 16 ; Roger F. Noriega, ” Assistant Secretary Noriega’s Statement Before the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations “, Department of State, March 3, 2005. www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/rm/2005/ql/42986.htm (site consulted April 9, 2005).

13 Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960, Meeting og National Security Council, January 14, 1960, 6 : 742-743.

14 Piero Gleijeses, Misiones en Conflicto. La Habana, Washington y África 1959-1976 (Havana: Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 2004), p. 37.

15 Le Monde, ” La répression s’intensifie à Cuba à l’occasion d’un congrès d’opposants “, May 20, 2005 ; Le Monde, ” L’UE hausse le ton contre Cuba “, May 21, 2005 ; El Nuevo Herald, ” Fustigan la expulsión de diputados y periodistas “, May 23, 2005.

16 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, op.cit.

17 Rui Ferreira, ” Grito de ‘libertad’ de disidentes en Cuba “, El Nuevo Herald, May 21, 2005.

18 Reporters sans frontières, ” Cuba : les informations actualisées sur les 21 journalistes emprisonnés “, 2005. www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=360 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

19 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, op.cit., p. 20.

20 Reporters sans frontières, ” Deux ans après le ” printemps noir ” : urgence humanitaire pour 21 journalistes emprisonnés “, March 16, 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12882 (site consulted April 27, 2005).

21 Reporters sans frontières, ” Une mobilisation impérative “, Rapport annuel 2005. http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=497 (site consulted July 18, 2005). According to RSF, ” China is the biggest prison for journalists in the world with 26 prisoners “. See Reporters sans frontières, ” Chine, rapport annuel 2004 “, 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10013 (site consulted February 24, 2005).

22 Reporters sans frontières, ” Reporters sans frontières interpelle le commissaire européen au Développement Louis Michel avant sa visite à Cuba “, March 22, 2005. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12950 (site consulted July18, 2005).

23 Salim Lamrani, Cuba face à l’Empire. Propagande, guerre économique et terrorisme d’Etat (Outremont, Québec : Lanctôt, 2005), pp. 82-89.

24 Reporters sans frontières, ” Troisième classement mondial de la liberté de la presse. L’Asie orientale et le Moyen-Orient sont les pires régions au monde “, October 2004. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11707 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

25 Reporters sans frontières, ” Recrudescence des violences contre la presse “, Introduction Amériques, Rapport 2005. http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=499 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

26 Reporters sans frontières, ” Colombie – rapport annuel 2004 “, 2004, www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10029 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

27 Reporters sans frontières, ” Deuxième classement mondial de la liberté de la presse. Cuba, avant-dernier, juste avant la Corée du Nord “, October 2003. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8240 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

28 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, op.cit.

29 National Endowment for Democracy, ” Description of 2003 Grants : Latin America & the Caribbean “, 2004. www.ned.org/grants/03programs/grants-lac.html (site consulted July 27, 2005); United States Agency for International Development, ” Appendix A: Descriptions of Cuba Program Grantee Activities “, 2005. www.usaid.gov/locations/latin_america_caribbean/country/pubs/program_report/appendix_a.html (site consulted July 25, 2005).

30 Cuba Socialista, ” The Cuban exile, The Miami Mafia “, February 19, 2004. www.cubasocialista.com/orgeng4.htm/when (site consulted October 25, 2004) ; University of Texas, ” Franck Calzón “. http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/asce/about/history/annex1.pdf (site consulted October 25, 2004).

31 Center for a Free Cuba, ” About us “, 2005. http://www.cubacenter.org/about_us/index.html (site consulted July 18, 2005).

32 National Endowment for Democracy, ” About Us “. www.ned.org/about/about.html (site consulted April 27, 2005).

33 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, op.cit.

34 Famille Couso, ” La familia de José Couso pide a Reporteros Sin Fronteras que se retire de la querella “, January 17, 2004. www.josécouso.info (site consulted July 18, 2005).

35 Reporters sans frontières, ” Irak – rapport annuel 2004 “. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=9884 (site consulted July 18, 2005).

36 Reporters sans frontières, ” Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain “, op.cit.

 

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