The Sword of Damocles over the Weekly Adelante; Libel and Legal Peril / Dora Leonor Mesa

In Cuba, using children for violent political acts has become repeated and dangerous — the well-known “Acts of Repudiation” — a kind of propaganda without the permission of the parents, harassing the children of people who do not sympathize with the government and other violations that appear in the Penal Code of the Republic of Cuba.

News from the Radio Marti program “Cuba today” and

They used the son of an opponent in order to judge that opponent’s political ideas”

On the 24th of February, 2012, the official weekly Adelante of Camagey Province published an article by the journalist Enrique Milanés León where he uses the child Dainel Gonzalez, seven years of age, from a family of government opponents, in order to judge his father for his father’s political ideas.

The publication of the local Communist Party titled “Incurable handicap who conspires against the country that keeps his son alive” takes upon itself to highlight the illness that Dainel suffers from, the one for which he receives free medical care and education.

“The father of this child contributes to the manipulation of the Cuban reality, without keeping in mind the efforts of the Revolution to attend to the suffering of his son,” Milanés León emphasized in one of his photo captions and in the second part of his work he refers to the father of this child and independent journalist Joan David González as “yet another who gets up and goes with difficulty” owing to the fact that he is missing one leg.

Without the permission of his parents, the press took photos of the child, meanwhile they came and even asked him to pose as if he were writing in his workbook.

“The child does confirm that this gentleman appeared before him, asked him several things even asking him if he would pose for him writing in his work book and when our son asked him for whom was this for, the journalist told him that it was for a Pioneers magazine( a children’s political magazine),”affirmed Joan David González.

Victim:Dainel Gonzalez, Seven years of age

Name of Mother:Diana Eliza

Name of Father:Joan David González

Address of the Family:Santa Cruz del Sur

Address of the victim’s school:Not available

Accost:to pursue, to pressure, to pester someone with bothersome tasks or demands.

Libel: Writing that denigrates or defames someone or something.

Presumed guilty:Enrique Milanés León, journalist for the official weeklyAdelanteof Camaguey Province, Cuba

Address of the victim’s school:Not available

Analysis of news not taken into account by the weeklyAdelante

1. The security of the school where Dainel González studies and that the boys and girls attend is very vulnerable because access of the press to the classrooms is prohibited in Cuba without an authorization from the local or provincial government. Neither is the entry of people outside the employ of the school permitted.

2. Other students are also at risk. The teacher was told that they were going to write a profile of the group. If it is true what the teacher alleges, this situation should be made known to the principal of the school because similar procedures have to be authorized directly by, at the very least, the town educational authorities.

3. The absence of the teacher from the classroom must be confirmed. If it is certain and without justification, then this is abandonment of the children during school hours. It would be advisable to reprimand if this conduct is routine and would be an additional factor that works against the security of the children.

“On that day of the photos, she was not in the classroom because when I picked up my son, he told me that the teacher wasn’t there,” continued Diana Eliza, the mother of the child, in her explanation.

4. There are contradictions in what the teacher describes: a characterization was going to be done of the group. And the questions of the journalist to the child: who was the teacher and how was she? The comments of the teacher raise more doubts than they clarify.

“I’m ashamed that I’ve been a participant in this. I never imagined that they were going to do this,” said Yaniusdy Betancourt to Diana Eliza. Then how many people entered the school? Who besides those attached to the school approached the child in one way or another?

5. The Cuban School of Journalism has a manual of ethics and a code of conduct. Also, Cuba is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, an international legal tool and a binding agreement. Did the news article have the approval of an immediate supervisor, a middle manager, a supervisor of the reporting division or an editor in charge?

Journalists often gather information in a way similar to a police investigator or a historian when they compile verifications and can themselves see the necessity of checking the veracity of their notes in court. If someone attached to the profession wishes to break the rules, journalists of government media must learn to defend themselves. It’s not necessary to be an opponent of the government in order to go to jail. There are already people of the media industry in Cuban courts, some may even be accused in international courts. It wouldn’t be the first time, it even happens in democratic countries.

Translated by William Fitzhugh

May 4 2012