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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Global Toolbox

Not-so-friendly support for Cuban journalists

By Bruce C. Swaffield

Imagine my excitement when I read this startling headline recently:

“First Friends of Cuba Journalist Association Created in Argentina.”

Finally, I thought, an official group has been organized to help the struggling and imprisoned journalists in Cuba.

According to the story by Kaloian Santos Cabrera in Juventud Rebelde, “Some 40 Argentinean journalists from different media outlets took part in the founding ceremony of the Argentinean Friends of Cuba Association of Journalists (CAPAC), held in Buenos Aires on October 12.” (Read the full story at tinyurl.com/FriendsofCubaJournalists.)

Wonderful! It’s about time somebody did something.

But then I read on.

“The chair of the new organization, outstanding Argentinean journalist and writer Stella Calloni, highlighted the importance of fighting the fierce terrorist media campaigns designed to conceal the accomplishments of the Cuban revolution.”

My heart began to sink.

“‘We must stand up and do something to break the siege of manipulation and silence laid against Cuba,’ said Calloni, who added that Cuba has set an example of solidarity to other countries, spreading doctors and teachers throughout the world, while standing its ground.”

This isn’t exactly the kind of help I had in mind.

The declaration of the new organization calls for “the end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba and freedom for the Cuban Five, the men who for over 12 years have been imprisoned in U.S. jails.

“Cuba has been target of all kinds of aggressions by successive U.S. administrations,” states the document, “including terrorist attacks and attempts to assassinate comrade Fidel Castro, biologic attacks aimed at causing crops to fail, and other aggressions directly aimed at the Cuban people. The examples are countless.”

So much for any altruism on behalf of these “friends” to help the media in this oppressive country. Turns out their real agenda is to promote and validate the Cuban government. Unfortunately, their goal seems to have nothing to do with freedom of the press or journalists, even though they call themselves Friends of Cuba Association of Journalists.

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, told Quill, “It is sad to see that after 50 years of repression in Cuba there are still groups in Latin America and in Argentina supporting the Cuban regime. The Argentines suffered for years a military dictatorship not unlike the one imposed by the Castro brothers in Cuba.

“The press in the island is owned and controlled by the government; the Internet is censored and only 1.5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet; and the most basic rights, freedom to speak, to travel are denied to the Cubans. While most of Latin America, including Argentina, lives under democratic rule, the Cubans are still waiting, after 50 years, to vote and elect its leaders.”

Suchlicki added: “The fact that the declaration of the Friends of Cuba organization addresses Cuba’s now retired dictator as ‘comrade Fidel Castro’ indicates the Marxist orientation of this group.”

Oddly enough, however, the article in Juventud Rebelde explains that the “main objective” of the new group is “to systematically spread the truth about Cuban reality and counteract anti-Cuba campaigns, which in the long run do nothing but harm the Latin American region.”

OK. I think I get it, now that I realize the Cuba Journalist Association, or the Union of Cuban Journalists (Unión de Periodistas Cubanos), consists of media members throughout the country and that journalists must join before being licensed by the government. Another interesting item of note is that Fidel Castro once was awarded the association’s Dignity Prize.

Sometimes we have to read between the lines, very carefully.

By the way, you can learn more about the Cuban Five, also known as the Miami Five, through searching online. That is another story all together — one that also deserves a close reading.

Bruce C. Swaffield is a professor of graduate studies in journalism at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. He holds a B.S. from Kent State University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Miami. In addition to working as a professional journalist for many years in South Florida, Swaffield has been teaching journalism and writing since 1983. He is a member of the SPJ International Journalism Committee and may be contacted at brucswa@regent.edu.

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