14ymedio, Havana, 17 March 2021 — Revered by Fidel Castro and a frequent face on Cuban screens, the journalist Walter Martínez has disappeared for months from the TeleSur channel broadcasts on the island. His accumulated faults and his most critical positions towards the Nicolás Maduro regime have terminated his program Dossier.
Martínez went from being a frequently mentioned source in the official Cuban media to being silenced, after accusing the director of TeleSur, Patricia Villegas, of running the multinational network in a despotic way. The presenter also called out Villegas for claiming powers over the Venezuelan ruler and for handling large amounts of money.
In addition, the reporter accused the directors of Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) of faults and last June insisted that Nicolás Maduro had publicly mocked him. “He did not have the guts to say: ’Walter Martínez, you’re out’, he used a euphemism attacking the work of the elderly,” Martinez wrote on his Twitter account at that time.
The journalist insists that the reasons that the channel has offered for the exit of his program are only a “disguise” with a “false positive,” supposedly to protect him from the virus, but that they mask “acts of censorship for issuing opinions and for denouncing attacks and non-payment of professional fees.” A month earlier, he had denounced that the president of VTV prevented him from entering the channel.
In Cuban journalism schools, where Martínez was also cited as an example of a “committed reporter,” his work has not been mentioned. “Two years ago he was an idol at the Havana School of Communication and now when I planned to include him in my thesis, the tutor recommended not to do it,” a student told 14ymedio.
“At first there were rumors but with everything related to the pandemic, many thought that the program had gone off the air due to internal adjustments byTeleSur, ” a reporter from Tribuna de La Habana, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained to this newspaper. “But little by little it has come to be known that he is no longer seen as a trustworthy person in Cuba.”
“They made as an idol, but with the same power that they raised him up they sank him because he is very mouthy, and here they cannot handle people like that well. It was believed that he was a protégé of Fidel Castro and it turns out that they erased him as if he had never existed,” adds the source.
During Castro’s long convalescence, which began in July 2006 and lasted until his death in November 2016, Martínez was able to interview and meet with him on several occasions. The former Cuban leader also referred to Dossier in a glowing way.
In April 2014, Martínez was awarded the Félix Elmuza Distinction, conferred by the Council of State at the request of the Cuban Journalists Union. During the award ceremony, “his contribution to disseminating the truth, with authentic information and professional ethics, was praised in an outstanding manner,” according to the official press.
The Uruguayan-Venezuelan journalist, who was also a correspondent from several armed conflicts, became known on the island for his program Dossier, which was initially included in a selection of the TeleSur programming that was broadcast on Cuban television and later, on a broader grid of the multinational chain.
“He had many followers among retirees and people who still maintain their loyalty to the Government,” acknowledges a seller of audiovisual materials on Infanta Street, in Havana. “He had his audience among those who support the system but who prefer that type of journalism rather than that offered by the presenters on national television.”
“But now many of those people have been left without the program and without an explanation of what happened with Walter Martínez,” the vendor said. “In any case, his best moment was when there were no ways to be informed other than watch Dossier or the Primetime News, but since Cubans have internet on their mobiles, fewer and fewer people have watched him.”
TeleSur is a channel that was born with the participation of the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela, but in recent years the chain has suffered from the deep Venezuelan economic crisis and the dropping of its signal in several countries including Bolivia and Ecuador.
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