‘Cubadebate’ Tries to Give Lessons in Journalism to the International Press

The international press could not get any closer to Yunior García Aguilera’s home on November 14, when the police kept him under siege to prevent him from being able to march as he intended. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 26 November 2021 — On Friday, two weeks after the Cuban government withdrew the credentials of the EFE agency journalists without explanation, the State website Cubadebate published an extensive article intended to justify the measure, which it attributes to the “prominent role” of the Spanish media in the “manufacture of news.”

The official website makes it clear that the coverage of 15N (15 November) by EFE and CNN, to which they also dedicate half of the text, was not to their liking, more than enough reason, apparently, to prevent journalists from exercising their profession.

The note, titled CNN in Spanish and EFE on Cuba: Naivety or collusion? begins by explaining to readers how a political situation can be narrated in many ways and shown from different angles, forming a particular perception of the facts and generating in the receiver a specific political position. The media have, it adds, the duty to show reality so that citizens can consciously choose their sources and build their version of events.

Cubadebate’s journalistic theory class fits perfectly with the one that would be taught in a journalism school, but only up to that point. Next, the official media makes it clear that the only perception allowed in Cuba is theirs and that any method is good if it prevents the public from forming another point of view.

The digital medium, directed by Randy Alonso — self-defined as a ‘Fidel Soldier of Ideas’ — accuses EFE of “biased and tendentious actions,” specifically due to the informational treatment given to the the 15N marches. According to Cubadebate, “the media usually report on events in progress or that have already had an outcome,” but both CNN and the Spanish agency “as of several weeks before November 15, already systematically ’reported’ on the alleged situation of instability in Cuba and about mobilizations that had not yet occurred and a ’strong government response’.”

In addition to forgetting that, for officialdom, the mere calling of an opposition march, by means of a request presented in the institutions and in accordance with the law, was news because it was an unprecedented event, Alonso ignores his site’s own practices. A quick search is enough to verify that Cubadebate has reported calls for marches against “imperialism” and the blockade on many occasions before they occurred. They have also advanced announced events, fulfilling the function of the press, such as the reopening of the country after the pandemic, the production of vaccines and the attraction of investments, even if the latter did not come to pass.

Cubadebate not only points out what EFE should not have published, but also indicates what it should have done, such as talking more about vaccines, improvements in the pandemic, and the reopening to tourism. In this case, the little analysis carried out by the official media is easily perceived, since the agency offered – and continues to do so – the daily data of the pandemic through the press conferences of Dr. Francisco Durán. Those cables also contained information on vaccinations.

Nor has the Spanish agency spared news about the Cuban-developed vaccines Soberana and Abdala, even praising an effectiveness that has only been tested on the Cuban side, as in the note entitled “The effectiveness of Cuban formulas opens hope for the first Latin American vaccine” and many others that one can locate in seconds with the help of a search engine. The same happens with the reopening of tourism.

On Saturday, November 13, the Cuban government withdrew the accreditations of the entire EFE team on the island and, hours later, returned two of them. Cubadebate insists that two members of the team kept their credentials the entire time and were able to work, without giving any reason why the limitation or cut is justified.

In fact, the official media considers it a demonstration of government benevolence that the agency published three articles between November 12th and 15th, and 16 more articles on the day of the call to march and that the two authorized reporters were able to “move and actively report.”

It can be assumed that they were very active to be able to maintain the publication rhythm with such a decrease in the team which, to this day, it is still very limited, despite the fact that it recovered.

Efe now adds this warning note in all their cables. “The decisions of the Cuban authorities in recent months have decimated the team of the Efe delegation in Havana, where currently only two journalists can continue to carry out their work. Efe hopes to be able to recover its information capacity on the island in the coming days.”

Cubadebate also points out that the relevance of EFE, the world’s leading news agency in Spanish, is one of its concerns, and highlights some information that, in its opinion, it should not have disseminated. This includes reports related to the arrests, the arrival of Yunior García Aguilera in Spain, and even the withdrawal of the credentials, which apparently have “political intentions.”

Although this Friday’s note devotes ample space to deploring the activity of CNN in Spanish, this channel does not have an office in Cuba, although its headquarters in English does have a representative, whose ambiguity towards the Cuban regime has been pointed out on several occasions.

What is new this time is the head-on confrontation with the Spanish state agency, which had been established normally on the island for 40 years and which it now accuses of having a line similar to that of the US television as an “expression of a coordinated strategy by the large media.of the international press to make viable the policy of the North American Government against Cuba and achieve the final objective of destroying the Revolution and producing a ’regime change’.”

Press associations and governments around the world rejected the Cuban authorities’ decision to withdraw the credentials of EFE journalists, and the agency’s leadership accused the Plaza of the Revolution of demonstrating “an unequivocal will to destabilize” its work.

“The harassment of the agency by the Cuban authorities is serious and sibylline,” EFE president Gabriela Cañas said last week. The Spanish Government might also respond to the note, since EFE is a company in which the State is the main shareholder. Two ministers, Foreign Affairs and Presidency, have already demanded the return of the accreditations and, even, summoned the Cuban charge d’affaires in Spain, who declined to attend the urgent meeting claiming to have covid.

Cuban officialdom, however, does not back down and in its article today threatens to continue to wage war on the press. “Our battle against such petty interests is prepared, right on the same terrain where they intend to fight it to deprive us of the freedom and the independence conquered based on a lot of blood from worthy Cubans.”

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