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Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality

Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality

Translated by Larry R. Oberg
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality
    Book Description:

    In this concise and detailed work, Salim Lamrani addresses questions of media concentration and corporate bias by examining a perennially controversial topic: Cuba. Lamrani argues that the tiny island nation is forced to contend not only with economic isolation and a U.S. blockade, but with misleading or downright hostile media coverage. He takes as his case studyEl País, the most widely distributed Spanish daily.El País(a property ofGrupo Prisa, the largest Spanish media conglomerate), has editions aimed at Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., making it is a global opinion leader. Lamrani wades through a swamp of reporting and uses the paper as an example of how media conglomerates distort and misrepresent life in Cuba and the activities of its government. By focusing on eight key areas, including human development, internal opposition, and migration, Lamrani shows how the media systematically shapes our understanding of Cuban reality. This book, with a preface by Eduardo Galeano, provides an alternative view, combining a scholar's eye for complexity with a journalist's hunger for the facts.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-474-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 7-8)
    Eduardo Galeano

    Fidel castro. His enemies say that he was a king without a crown and that he confused unity with unanimity.

    And in this sense his enemies are right.

    His enemies say that if Napoleon had possessed a newspaper likeGranmathe French would have been unaware of the disaster of Waterloo.

    And in this sense his enemies are right.

    His enemies also say that, being more accustomed to echoes than to voices, he exercised power by speaking much and listening little.

    And in this sense his enemies are right.

    But his enemies do not say that in order to ensure...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-14)

    A free and independent press and its corollary, a duty to provide truthful information to all citizens, are essential to any democracy. The media, moreover, are considered to be the fourth branch of government, along with the legislative, executive and judicial and thus contribute to the stability of society. The media can, however, only fulfill their role if they succeed in emancipating themselves, not only from political powers, but also from the power of money. At present, the phenomenon of media concentration in the hands of economic and financial powers has become, throughout the West, an undeniable reality. In France,...

  5. 1 The Ideological Shift of El País
    (pp. 15-18)

    Long considered the newspaper of reference in Spain and Latin America, the dailyEl País, reputed to be center-left, has in recent years undergone a spectacular ideological shift. It has adopted an editorial line that is conservative and particularly hostile to leftist Latin American governments in general and Cuba in particular, this to the point of competing with the Miami daily,El Nuevo Herald, a paper that represents the interests of the extreme right of the Cuban exile community.

    It should also be noted thatEl Paíssigned a trade agreement in March 2011 withEl Nuevo Heraldand is...

  6. 2 Daily Life in Cuba
    (pp. 19-28)

    According toel país, “After half a century of revolution, Cuban leaders cannot continue to blame external forces for the political, economic and social failure into which they themselves have precipitated the island.”18The reader may be surprised at such a harsh judgment and see it as more worthy of the political opposition to the Havana government that emanates from the White House or the dissident community rather than impartial, fact-based journalism.

    It is now appropriate to compare the paper’s assertions to the facts on the ground. Cuba’s economic difficulties are undeniable; anyone who has visited the island quickly realizes...

  7. 3 A Social Failure?
    (pp. 29-64)

    Even more surprisingly,El Paíshas invoked the “social failure” of the Cuban Revolution, thereby taking a view that contradicts the opinions expressed by numerous international organizations, all of which recognize that, despite the difficulties and daily vicissitudes, Cuba has reached a level of social justice unparalleled to this day. According to the newspaper, “The Castro system does not have the capacity to provide employment for Cubans or even to feed them.”⁴⁵ Again, it is necessary to confront the assumptions of the Spanish paper with fact-based reality.

    In terms of education, the illiteracy rate in Latin America is 11.7 percent...

  8. 4 The Issue of Human Rights
    (pp. 65-70)

    In an article dated October 28, 2010,El País, citing the conflicted relations between Havana and Brussels, reported that “Cuba refuses to normalize relations with the European Union,”184a statement that is, at the very least, inaccurate. In fact, since 1996, it has been the Europe of the 27 that has imposed unilaterally a Common Position, something that has become the pillar of Brussels’ foreign policy vis-à-vis Havana, and it is this Common Position that constitutes an obstacle to the full normalization of relations with the island. The Common Position states that the resumption of bilateral relations is dependent upon...

  9. 5 The Dissidents
    (pp. 71-82)

    In terms of internal political opposition,El Paísnotes that the “Group of 75,” since released, had been “charged with ‘conspiring’ with the United States and, in the spring of 2003, sentenced to long prison terms.”189The newspaper also reports that those convicted had been accused of “engaging in subversive activities and committing crimes against ‘national security.’”190Finally, the paper recalls that Amnesty International considered them to be “prisoners of conscience.”191

    El Paístakes typographical precautions by putting quotation marks around the words “conspiring” and “national security” to indicate that these are the charges brought by the Havana government. However,...

  10. 6 Yoani Sánchez
    (pp. 83-96)

    In 2008,el paíschose to grant the Ortega y Gasset Prize of 15,000 euros to the Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez. This award is usually given only to writers and journalists with long and prestigious literary careers. This was the first time a person with Sánchez’s profile had received such a distinction.242

    After naming Sánchez in 2009 as one of the one hundred most influential people in Latin America—to the surprise of almost everyone—the Madrid newspaper decided to make her its permanent correspondent in Havana. Her articles are regularly published on both the paper’s website and in hard...

  11. 7 The Case of the Five Cuban Political Prisoners
    (pp. 97-114)

    In an article published in 2010,El Paísturned to the case of the five Cuban intelligence officers—Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Fernando González Llort, Antonio Guerrero, and René González Rodríguez Sehweret—who have been incarcerated in the United States since 1998. The Five, as they are known to Cubans, were sentenced to long prison terms for having infiltrated groups of violent Cuban exiles in Florida responsible for terrorist attacks against the island. The newspaper discussed these reasons but carefully noted that this is merely Havana’s point of view. It added that the Five were “accused of espionage.”292...

  12. 8 The Case of Alan Gross
    (pp. 115-118)

    El paíshas also addressed the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen employed by Alternative Development, Inc. (DAI), a subcontractor of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which itself is an entity of the Department of State. Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba for espionage and internal subversion after, according to Cuban authorities, entering the island with highly sophisticated satellite equipment to be distributed to the internal opposition.

    El Paíscorrespondent Mauricio Vicent underscores that according to Washington, Gross “went to Cuba to help the small Jewish community and provide its members with various...

  13. 9 Cuban Emigration to the United States
    (pp. 119-128)

    In an article in its October 9, 2011 edition,El Paísinvokes the Cuban migration issue, suggesting that the number of Cubans attempting to reach the United States is steadily increasing.347Citing the English-language Florida daily theMiami Herald, the Madrid newspaper notes that U.S. Department of Homeland Security statistics show a net increase in Cuban migration to the North.

    According toEl País, this massive emigration of Cubans is due to “a worsening of the economic situation and increased social malaise on the island.” Thus, a Cuban migration boom illustrates the failure of the socioeconomic system in place in...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 129-132)

    An analysis of the media coverage of Cuban life by the Spanish dailyEl Paísis revealing in several respects. First, analysis undermines the editorial board’s claims of impartiality. Its journalistic coverage is singularly lacking in diversity, balance, and nuance. It publishes information that is regularly truncated, often incomplete, and systematically negative—the censorship, for example, of any information that paints a picture of Cuba that is even slightly positive. This casts a shadow over the credibility and the professionalism ofEl País. The paper appears to defend and follow a specific political agenda, rather than presenting its readers with...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 133-155)
  16. Index
    (pp. 156-160)