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The Lies of Reporters without Borders

French NGO Reporters without borders, dedicated to the defense of press freedom, is today at the center of a controversy. To some people, it is an efficient vector for freedom in the world, but to others – and we are among those – it has evolved into a transmission cable for the State Department, and it is instrumenting a cause to support the United States’ strategy. Salim Lamrani, researcher at the Sorbonne university, looks into the details of accusations and answers, before unveiling the extent of the deception.

| Paris (France)
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Background: the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Bagdad in April 2003. Front: Robert Ménard, director of Reporters without borders.

In a July 6, 2005 statement, the Reporters without Borders Organization (RSF) responded to accusations made against it with regards to its obsession with Cuba, its hidden ties with the American government and certain multinational companies, as well as its relations with organizations involved in shady activities and which maintain closed ties with international terrorism. [1]

For RSF, there is “no freedom of the press” in Cuba because “the information is still monopolized by the government.” [2] Thus, according to the organization directed by Mr. Ménard, Cuban journalists are incompetent persons who are incapable of understanding the reality of their own country and lackeys devoted to the requests of the government of Havana not capable of demarcating themselves from the official line. Therefore, these journalists’ intellectual production is worthless and deserves no credit at all, but indifference and contempt. Such criteria show how ignorant of the Cuban press RSF is, because in many aspects it is much more open and free than the Western media which is owned by huge economic and financial groups. [3]

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Luis Posada Carriles

For example, the allegedly free international press has neither analyzed terrorism against Cuba nor the Luis Posada Carriles issue, the notorious criminal protected by the United States. [4] Likewise, the scandalous matter regarding the Five Cubans imprisoned in US high-security jails for having fought terrorism has been completely suppressed from the dominating media space. [5] Terrorist violence against Cuba has been tacitly accepted through a pernicious censure.

RSF expects to justify its attacks against Cuba because “21 journalists are still imprisoned in extremely difficult conditions.” [6] The French organization has manipulated the reality in this case too by reintroducing Washington’s orchestrated campaign aimed at transforming the United States’ paid agents into “journalists.

However, the Parisian organization’s reasoning is wrong.

In Cuba, 156 foreign correspondents of 126 press agencies of 37 countries have an accreditation that allows them to do their job. [7] These professionals have all material and relational services to perform their duties completely guaranteed. In view of this situation, it is funny to listen to RSF and several international media talk about “independent” journalists. If Cuba needs “independent” journalists, this means that not only Cuban professionals are incompetent, but also the 156 international journalists who are not doing their job properly. Maybe this is the reason why “independent” Cuban journalists are forced to intervene to mitigate the international reporters’ professional insufficiency to understand the Cuban reality.

Likewise, RSF has failed to explain why Misters Elizardo Sánchez and Oswaldo Payá, the most active, virulent and famous “dissidents”, also labeled as “independent journalists”, have never had any serious trouble with the Cuban justice or have never spent a night behind bars. If we compare the writings and statements of these two individuals with those of the imprisoned “21 journalists” we’ll see that these are extremely moderate not to say they are ‘young babies’. [8]

RSF hasn’t analyzed either a common sense issue: why would Cuban authorities run the risk of triggering a world media disapproval and diplomatic conflicts with the European Union by jailing completely unknown “journalists” for the Cubans and the international press before their arrest if they committed no crime? [9]

Another evident though carefully avoided explanation on the part of the Parisian organization is more acceptable: the “independent journalists” defended by RSF are not journalists because they did not study journalism. On the other hand, there is nothing “independent” about them for before their arrest they regularly met at the United States Interest Section in Havana to receive their orders and emoluments. These financing coming from a foreign power was what was sanctioned by the Cuban law and not the “independents’” intellectual production. Facts were evidenced and widely demonstrated during the March and April 2003 trials. [10]

Charges presented by Cuban authorities were confirmed by the testimonies of the 12 agents of the intelligence services that infiltrated the heart of the “dissidents’” and the “independent journalists’” groups. They were also corroborated by the countless documents gathered by these agents. [11] But, in case that some people like Mr. Ménard, the American authorities and the Cuban extreme right in Florida affirm that all this was invented by the “Castro regime”, the very same official documents of the State Department proved the whole thing too. According to Mr. Collin Powel’s report, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a budget of about 50 million dollars is used to “support the democratic opposition and to strengthen the emergent civil society” in Cuba. [12]

Since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the United States designed a policy aimed at fabricating an opposition in Cuba. For instance, during a meeting of the National Security Council on January 14, 1960, Undersecretary Livingston Merchant stated: “Our goal is to adjust our actions with the purpose of accelerating the development of an opposition in Cuba [...]”. On his part, Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Roy Rubottom affirmed that “the endorsed program [aimed at overthrowing the Cuban government] has allowed us to offer our assistance to those who oppose the Castro regime to make people believe his fall would be the result of his own mistakes.” [13]

Likewise, on June 19, 1963, Kennedy passed the “Program of Covert Actions against Cuba” aimed at “maintaining all possible pressures upon Cuba and creating and using situations in Cuba designed to encourage the dissident elements of the regime.” [14] This policy is still in force.

RSF also hopes to justify its obsession with Cuba by affirming that “the foreign press is also watched in Cuba”. The example given was the expulsion of two journalists, a Polish and an Italian, who had tourist visa. [15] These two men had violated the Cuban law by trying to cover a congress of the Cuban “dissidence” without a visa granted to press reporters. RSF has legitimated this violation by saying these journalists would have never been granted visas as press reporters. [16] But, as usual, RSF has failed to explain the reasons why dozens of foreign correspondents and several diplomats, among whom was Mr. James Cason, head of the US Interest Section, could attend the Congress with no problems at all. [17]

Similarly, the French entity for the “defense of the freedom of press” says it gives no special treatment to Cuba. However, RSF has not explained why the only special page available during the last two years in its trilingual site devoted to a specific country is about Cuba. [18] The Parisian organization hasn’t pointed out either why the only campaigns launched at national and international audiences devoted, among other things, to dissuade tourists from traveling to the Island, [19] as stipulated in Mr. Powel’s report, [20] only stigmatize the Caribbean Archipelago whereas according to their own more-ideological-than-objective criteria the largest prison for journalist in the world is China. [21]Mr. Ménard has never asked the European Union to impose sanctions on China for the violation of journalists’ rights as it has done with regard to Cuba. [22] The General Secretary of RSF has also failed to explain why he meets with Florida-based organizations of fascist character involved in international terrorism that are bitter enemies of the Cuban revolution. [23]

October 2004 RSF’s “third world classification of the freedom of press” presents also several questionable issues. [24] Why is China better placed than Cuba if it has “26 journalists” imprisoned (ranked 162 vs. ranked 166)? Why is Iraq (148) better ranked than Cuba if, since the beginning of the conflict until October 2004, 44 journalists have been murdered and not even one journalist has been murdered in Cuba since 1959? Why are Brazil (66), Haiti (125), Mexico (96), Peru (124) where various journalists were murdered better ranked than Cuba? [25] Why has the situation of the media professionals been labeled “difficult” in Colombia whereas that of Cuba has been described as “very serious” [26] if, according to RSF five journalists died in 2004, some 60 were kidnapped and about 20 had to leave the region in Colombia? Why is the title of the 2003 classification completely focused on Cuba –“Cuba, next to last before North Korea” [27]- instead of presenting a more adequate one like, for example: “North Korea: the last” or “Finland, the first?” Can RSF claim it has no special treatment for Cuba?

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Frank Calzon

Mr. Ménard has claimed he received no money from Washington but has admitted his organization is subsidized by the Center for a Free Cuba. [28] However, he hasn’t said this organization is financed by the United States through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). [29]

The General Secretary of RSF hasn’t specified either that, according to its own statutes, the Center for a Free Cuba is aimed at overthrowing the Cuba government. [30] Therefore, Mr. Ménard has been directly financed by the Cuban extreme right and by the United States, indirectly.

RSF has proudly stated that being financed by American foundations, which at the same time have been created and subsidized by Washington, does not mean it can’t “condemn the actions of the American army against journalists in Iraq. The organization also published a detailed report on the shots of an American car against the Palestina hotel that took the lives of two journalists in April 2003.” [31] Here, Mr. Ménard’s organization mentioned the premeditated assassination of Spanish cameraman José Couso and his Ukrainian colleague Taras Protsyuk perpetrated by American soldiers. What RSF hasn’t said is that such a report, published on January 15, 2004, exonerated the American military men who were responsible for the crime. The open letter sent by José Couso’s family to RSF is quite clear:

Based on what was published on a Reporters without Frontiers’ report “Two murders for a lie,” the Couso family wants to say the following: This report’s conclusions exonerate the known perpetrators of the shooting against the Palestina Hotel based on the doubtful impartiality of the involved ones and the very same testimony of the authors and those responsible for the shooting, transferring it to unidentified people. The report was signed by journalist Jean Paul Mari, who has close relations with Colonel Philiph de Camp, who admitted his involvement in the attack and the death of the journalists at the Palestina Hotel. In addition, the report was based on the testimonies of three American journalists that were part of the American forces and one of them, Chris Tomlinson, served in the secret services of the United States for more than seven years. None of the Spanish journalists present at the Hotel was consulted for the drafting of this document. The report has many errors, contradictions, and irregularities regarding important data such as the situation of the hotel rooms, the exact place hit by bullets, witnesses’ locations, etc. We also believe the so “humane” biography written about José Couso and Taras Protsyuk’s murderers is an absolute lack of tact, especially if we take into account that at the end of the report American military men’s collaboration is acknowledged. Reporters without Borders –Spanish Section- has requested its adhesion to the lawsuit presented by the family on May 27, 2003, against the responsible ones for the death of José Couso. Considering the publication of this report that, according to its version, exonerates the responsibility of the murderers of the journalists at the Palestina Hote, the continuation of its organization’s duties regarding the popular action at the National High Courts’ open procedures is absolutely incoherent and contradictory. This is the reason why the family wishes you to withdraw your request of being present during the open procedures at the National High Courts. [32]

Contrary to what it affirms, RSF has never denounced the actions committed by the military troops in Iraq. It has even implicitly supported the illegal and brutal invasion by affirming that “the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship has put an end to 30 years of official propaganda and has brought about an era of new freedom, full of hope and uncertainties for Iraqi journalists.” The French organization has also said that “the decades of total absence of freedom of press for the Iraqi media has been ended with the bombing of the ministry of information on April 9 in Baghdad. [33] These statements are not the Pentagon’s, the American Secretary of Defense’s or Mr. Donald Rumsfeld’s, but the 2004 RSF report on Iraq.

But, for Mr. Ménard, those who don’t follow ideological framework the established for the media, deal with fundamental issues or question the established guidelines to deal with Cuba are nothing but “active Castro supporters” whose “bad faith” leads to the “disinformation” they spread. These “crusaders of the Castro Revolution,” as have been labeled by the Parisian organization, deserve no attention at all and are even a threat for RSF’s mission. Thus, invectives and insults against those people who make the unforgivable sin of revealing the true activities of the association for “the defense of the freedom of press” are beyond argumentative proofs. [34]

According to the established ideology, the norm is to back up through a criminal silence the savage American aggressions against the Cuban population. For RSF, those who dare to signal the unbearable, that is, almost half a century of terrorism, economic sanctions, political and diplomatic war, permanent subversion and propaganda which Cuba has suffered, is nothing but a fanatical Castro supporter with no clue of the reality.

After the terrible attacks of July 7, 2005 in London against innocent civilians, the whole world respected, with reason, two minutes of silence as a tribute to the memories of the British victims. The 3 478 Cubans murdered in atrocious acts organized by the United States for more than 45 years, hasn’t had, unfortunately, this privilege.

[1] Reporters sans frontières, “Pourquoi s’intéresser autant à Cuba ? La réponse de Reporters sans frontières aux accusations des défenseurs du gouvernement cubain ”. (web sit visited on July 15, 2005).

[2] Ibid.

[3] There are more than 30 different newspapers and magazines in Cuba which approach certain matters with an extraordinary freedom and relevance. Among others, it is useful to mention 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 (compiler), 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 data of December 1st., 2004, email from the international service of Radio Havana Cuba to Salim Lamrani, 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” (La Habana: Editora Política, 2003).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, May 2004). (web site consulted on 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. (web site viewed on April 9, 2005).

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

[14] Piero Gleijeses, Misiones en Conflicto. La Habana, Washington y África 1959-1976 (La Habana: 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 frontiers: “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. (web site consulted on July 18, 2005).

[19] Reporters sans frontières, “Deux ans après le “printemps noir”: urgence humanitaire pour 21 journalistes emprisonnés”, March 16, 2005. (web site consulted on April 27, 2005).

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

[21] Reporters sans frontières, “Une mobilisation imperative”, 2005 Annual report. (web site consulted on July 18, 2005). According to RSF, “China is still the largest prison for journalist in the world with 26 detainees”. See Reporters sans frontières, “Chine, rapport annual 2004”. (web site viewed on 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. (web site consulted on July 18, 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. (web site consulted on July 18, 2005).

[25] Reporters sans frontières, “Recrudescence des violences contre la presse”, Introduction Amériques, Rapport 2005. (web site consulted on July 18, 2005).

[26] Reporters sans frontières, “Colombie – rapport annuel 2004”, 2004, (web site consulted on 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. (web site consulted on 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”] He has made no emphasis on the fact that it is directed by Mr. Frank Calzón, a member of the Cuban fascist extreme right, a former CIA agent, ex leader of the Abdala terrorist organization and former director of the Cuban American National Foundation which financed, among other things, terrorist attacks against the Cuban tourist industry and took the life of a young Italian vacationer.[[Cuba Socialista, “The Cuban exile, The Miami Mafia”, February 19, 2004. when (web site consulted on October 25, 2004); University of Texas, “Franck Calzón”. (web site consulted on October 25, 2004).

[30] Center for a Free Cuba, “About us”] Likewise, Mr. Ménard has confessed he’s been financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which, at the same time, is financed by the United States Department of State, and it’s aimed at promoting the agenda of the White House.[[National Endowment for Democracy, “About Us”. (web site consulted on April 27, 2005).

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

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

[33] Reporters sans frontières, “Irak – rapport annuel 2004”. (web site consulted on July 18, 2005).

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

Salim Lamrani

Salim Lamrani Lecturer at the Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV and Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée Universities and specialist in Cuba-US relations. His latest published work in French: Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité Estrella, 2013; in English: Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba (Common Courage Press, 2006).

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