Journalists in Miami. Either Paid or Punished.

by Salvador Capote
Sept. 5, 2012

Translation by Machetera

Research done by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, along with the Five’s defense attorneys, has revealed that scores of journalists in Miami received payments through Radio Martí, to illegally create a media environment adverse to the five Cuban patriots, before, during and after the arbitrary trial in which, for political reasons, they were convicted and given unduly harsh sentences.

The revelation of the large number of journalists and the high dollar figure they were paid is still only a tiny fraction of the real total, given that the “Broadcasting Board of Governors,” an official agency for United States government propaganda, has steadfastly refused – in an obstruction of the due process rights of the Five – to reveal the names of all the journalists under contract at the time as well as the total sum of payments they received, contrary to the laws established by this country.

But even though all indications are that only the tip of the iceberg has surfaced, this fragment that we’ve already seen is more than sufficient to state that never before in the legal history of the United States has the media environment surrounding a trial been as invaded and controlled by the government, and never before has that space been as poisoned in order to guarantee hidden political objectives. In just a few months, thousands of articles appeared in the written press, along with countless radio and television commentaries, saturated with lies, manipulations and errors. And never before has the media war against any accused person been as comprehensive. All the articles, all the commentaries in that media avalanche were aimed at convicting the Five. Not a single article, not a single commentary appeared in their favor. Without exception. The trial of the Cuban Five in Miami cannot be described as anything other than a media lynching. The government that put them on trial was simultaneously financing the creation of an environment crucial to their convictions.

Miami was actually the only city in the United States where it was impossible to hold a fair trial. In no other place would such a shocking number of journalists have so easily rolled over for the government. In no other city would fear have paralyzed every possible dissenting voice. Only here, in Miami, the city of absolute political puppetry, would it have been possible to put such a large slush fund of federal money to work secretly in order to achieve such a coordinated, effective and unanimous media conviction.

What peculiar circumstance exists in this sliver of Florida that has allowed for such mediocre journalism, always at the service of the worst causes, for so many years? The explanation is not to be found solely in the economic incentive of additional income earned through Radio and TV Martí, or through governmental agencies like USAID, whose interests lie in promoting subversion in Cuba. Nor is it a strictly ideological phenomenon. To find the answer, one must look at Miami’s social structure, where professional, independent journalism is impeded. The few who have tried, through alternative press or radio, have had and still have to pay a high price for such a thing.

Journalism in Miami has not had various degrees of freedom for individual action, rather, it’s practically certain that all the journalists who received government payments were either members of or connected to at least one if not more of the more than 200 Cuban-American organizations with specific agendas – often explicitly terrorist in nature – in regard to anything that has to do with Cuba. Their activities were not determined only by the payments they received but by the discipline inherent to the militant nature of these organizations, some of whom also had contracts for radio and television time and their own press outlets. The conviction of the Five reached the status of a slogan, an important part of the creed, the anti-Castro litany recited daily – that is still recited – by those in the communications business. In Miami’s media, mercenary behavior was not the exception but the rule.

In addition, just as in the case of the [Cuban] child Elián [González], the threat of reprisals paralyzed any kind of rational initiative. The demonization of the Five became an important part of the propaganda platform for Cuban-American congressional representatives and other politicians and officials in South Florida. Those who, like Janet Reno, supported Elián’s return to Cuba with his father, were forced to contend with defamation and a punishing vote. Equally, except for in alternative media, no-one raised their voice to defend the Five, for to do so would have been suicidal. Years later, Oscar Corral was the target of a personal smear campaign and saw his professional career destroyed for having been the first to denounce the government payments to ten journalists in Miami.

Existing social interconnections made it impossible to exercise even minimally objective journalism when it came to anything remotely related to the subject of Cuba. It was the classic dilemma of the carrot and the stick. The carrot was the pay received from the government, and the stick was the possible loss of employment, exclusion, and fear of even greater reprisals. The money one stood to earn was part of the game, certainly, but the social position and salary one stood to lose (by not playing) was no less a determining factor.

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