Thursday, September 14, 2006

Journalists on the take Defend Cuba Bashing

Periodico 26

Journalists on the take Defend Cuba Bashing
By Circles Robinson*

* US Journalists Paid to Slander Cuba

Less than a week has passed since the cover of objectivity was blown for 10 journalist-agents receiving large sums of money from the US government for writing horrors about Cuba.

Instead of admitting their violation of standard journalism ethics, some of the reporters and commentators involved are actually trying to defend their actions.

Carlos Alberto Montaner, one of the best known of the agents, wrote to the Miami Herald to say that “All of those people [the journalists on the take] have a well-earned reputation for honesty and probity and would never sell their pens to anyone.”

Montaner, who says he resides in Madrid, even if his heart is in Miami, states that 60 publications in Europe the US and Latin America and some radio stations carry his column. His Firmas Press agency distributes his writings that attack Cuba and other progressive forces in Latin America.

Montaner says the money he receives from the US government via Radio Marti comes without “the slightest condition or suggestion, and if there had been one I wouldn’t have accepted.”

“The way which the information was presented, is as if some dark criminal plot had been uncovered,” laments the agent.

Now the question is whether Firmas Press clients want to continue running a column by a journalist-agent who sees no ethical problem in receiving money from one government to write “objectively” about others.

JUST AN EXPENSE STIPEND

Another of the uncovered journalist-agents, Helen Aguirre Ferre, calls the funds she receives from TV Marti to bash Cuba “an expense stipend from a news organization” and therefore sees no conflict of interest in accepting such payment.

The fact that even the Bush administration doesn’t hide that Radio and TV Marti are part of a dirty war against Cuba don’t seem to register with Aguirre.

Could it be that the journalist hasn’t seen the 450-page May 2004 report on how to overthrow the Cuban government and annex the island drafted by the US State Department’s Committee for Assistance to a Free Cuba? Could she also have missed the 2006 follow up plans with a top secret appendix?

“The receipt of such payment may raise questions from members of our journalism community whom I respect and hold in high regard,” admits Aguirre. She then laments having her journalistic integrity questioned and tries to remedy the situation by saying she will donate her fees from the US government to the Cancer League.

CONTRACTORS CAUSE STIR AT MIAMI HERALD

Pablo Alfonso, who received over 175,000 dollars from the US government for slandering Cuba and was fired Friday from the Miami Herald, has yet to give his explanation of how “objectivity” in writing is not affected by wallets stuffed with greenbacks.

Olga Conner, a “freelance” colleague of Pablo Alfonso at the Herald did come forth to defend her role as a journalist-agent of the US government. Conner blamed the Herald as a silent accomplice to her well paid endeavors.

She told the press that the newspaper's managers have known since 2002 that she was a “contractor” paid by the U.S. government. She said the managers never made an issue of it before.

''At no time did any of the editorial management of the Herald indicate to me that this was considered a conflict of interest, and I continued writing,'' Connor wrote in a letter to executives of The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the two newspapers' parent company, The McClatchy Co.

The issue apparently led to some internal controversy at the two dailies. El Nuevo Herald Executive Editor Humberto Castello said Monday in an e-mail responding to a reporter's questions that he did not dismiss Connor in 2002 because she was a freelancer.

Asked if he agreed with the company's decision last Thursday to terminate her contract, he answered in Spanish: “I don't agree with the decision taken,” states a Miami Herald article on Tuesday.

However, Jesus Diaz Jr., president of Miami Herald Media Company and publisher of both newspapers, said the decision was his.

”The reason I decided the freelance relationship should be terminated is because many of her assignments are made by us. Most of the articles she writes for El Nuevo Herald appear only in El Nuevo Herald. I wasn't aware of the article in 2002 [stating that Conner was a US government contractor], and if I had seen this [her firing] might have happened sooner,'' Diaz said.

The 2002 story published in El Nuevo Herald described Connor as a ''columnist for El Nuevo Herald'' and said she was getting paid $45,770 a year by TV and Radio Marti.

It’s no secret that the U.S. government’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting, runs Radio and TV Marti.

According to The Herald it has a $37 million budget and 149 employees this year. It reportedly spends millions of that money for contractors, including journalists already employed in private media companies, syndicated columnists, university professors and others with “expertise” on Cuba issues.

For decades Cuba has stated that successive US governments have maintained a prolonged campaign against the island that includes financing and assisting terrorist groups based in Miami, carrying out acts of sabotage and a blockade against the island’s people and economy, and waging a media war to distort US and world public opinion on life in Cuba.

*Circles Robinson is a US journalist living in Havana. His commentaries can be read at: circlesonline.blogspot.com

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