Voice of America fails to report on Cuban officials harassing TV Marti reporters in Panama

BBG Watch Commentary

Even though its parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), issued a press release on the harassment of TV Marti reporters by Cuban security officials in Panama, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) failed to report on the incident on its English news website, voanews.com and on VOA Spanish news website, voanoticias.com, as of 2:15 PM Sunday. The incident took place on Saturday.

As of 2:15 PM Sunday, April 12, the YouTube CNN en Español video of the incident posted the day before is already showing 3,710 views.

 

UPDATE April 12, 2015 3:53 PM ET: Voice of America finally posted a short news report, “US Journalists Banned from Cuban Press Conference” | Voice of America News, with Sunday, April 12, 2015 3:53 time stamp — about 24 hours after the incident took place. VOA English News was at least 12 hours, if not more, behind the BBG press release.
 
As of April 12, Sunday, 6:31 PM ET, this VOA report does not appear anywhere on VOA’s “USA News” page. A headline linking to it can only be seen toward the middle of the VOA homepage, but not among the top ten VOA news items.

As of 6:38 PM ET Sunday, the Voice of America Spanish news website still has no news report on TV Martí journalists being banned by Cuban security officials from the press conference in Panama.

 

 

The BBG issued its press release with a Saturday, April 11 date stamp. It was seen by BBG Watch online Sunday morning. The news of the incident, however, never made it onto Voice of America news websites. Although we were not able to check every VOA foreign language news website, it’s likely that the news of the forceful removal of TV Marti journalists by Cuban security officials was not reported at all by Voice of America.

Video of the incident is available from CNN en Español and Radio and TV Martí, but Voice of America did not show it online.

The two Radio and TV Martí journalists were reporter Karen Caballero and cameraman Rudy Hernandez.

“The fact that Karen and Rudy were forced out of the press conference is further indication of the ongoing lack of press freedom in Cuba,” said Carlos García Pérez, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting which includes Radio and TV Martí.

VOA English Last 24 Hours Search for TV Martí Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 1.45 PM ET
VOA English Last 24 Hours Search for TV Martí Screen Shot, Sunday, 2015-04-12 at 1:45 PM ET
 
VOA Spanish Last 24 Hours Search for TV Martí Screen Shot, Sunday, 2015-04-12 at 1-44 PM ET
VOA Spanish Last 24 Hours Search for TV Martí Screen Shot, Sunday, 2015-04-12 at 1:44 PM ET
 
 
Radio and TV Marti is, like the Voice of America, part of the federal structure of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Radio and TV Marti has provided more detailed and more realistic reporting on U.S.-Cuba rapprochement, but the station only offers news in Spanish. Radio and TV Marti’s parent organization is the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which like VOA is a federal government entity. Both VOA and OCB are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which also includes non-federal, U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlets, such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN – Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV).

Voice of America Director David Ensor announced his resignation “after nearly four years leading the nation’s international state broadcaster,” according to an April 7 BBG press release. He is still in charge of VOA, but his departure is expected soon. VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch has been David Ensor’s top deputy. April 2 BBG press release announced that “Voice of America has named Clara Dominguez as Managing Editor of the VOA News Center, the main source of news-gathering and production for a weekly audience of more than 172 million people in nearly 50 languages.” Prior to joining VOA in 2010, Clara Dominguez was News Director at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Dominguez moved to the News Center from the Latin America Division, where, according to the BBG press release, “she helped build a network of more than 350 television, radio, and on-line affiliates, reaching record audiences throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean.”

VOA Central News operation has suffered for years from mismanagement by senior level VOA officials, declining staffing, and diminishing resources while VOA’s and agency’s bureaucracy kept expanding at a rapid rate.
 

READ: Obama and Castro Meet Face-to-Face – Voice of America downplays U.S. congressional criticism, BBG Watch, April 11, 2015 with April 12, 2015 update.

 
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BBG Press Release

 

Cuban Security Ejects TV Martí Team From Panama Press Conference

 
APRIL 11, 2015
 
Panama City, Panama – (April 11, 2015) Cuban security officials forced TV Martí’s reporter Karen Caballero and cameraman Rudy Hernandez out of today’s press conference with the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Panama.
 

TV Marti reporter Karen Caballero talking to reporters after being ejecting from press conference by Cuban officials

TV Marti reporter Karen Caballero talking to reporters after being ejecting from press conference by Cuban officials


 
Caballero and Hernandez are fully credentialed to cover the historic summit including the meeting between President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro. Caballero is a well-recognized TV Martí host and reporter who was in place with her cameraman and sitting quietly prior to the start of the press conference. They were unceremoniously told to leave by the head of the Cuban press security. The Cuban official insisted that they could choose whom to include and wanted “unbiased, serious press that wants unity” to interview the Cuban delegation.
 
“The fact that Karen and Rudy were forced out of the press conference is further indication of the ongoing lack of press freedom in Cuba,” said Carlos García Pérez, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting which includes Radio and TV Martí.
 
CNN en Español captured the events on video.
 
Further footage and coverage is online at martinoticias.com.
 
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting oversees Radio and Television Martí at its headquarters in Miami, Florida. The Martís are a multimedia hub of news, information and analysis that provide the people of Cuba with interactive programs seven days a week through satellite television and shortwave and AM radio, as well as through flash drives, emails, DVDs, and SMS text. Combined with the online platform, martinoticias.com, the Martís are a one-of-a-kind service that brings unbiased, objective information to Cubans.
 
For further information, please contact Natalia Crujeiras, mobile (305)984-4569, ncrujeiras@bbg.gov. 

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Voice of America News

 

BBG Watch note: VOA English news reports from the last few days had almost nothing on strong opposition among Republicans and some Democrats in Congress to President Obama’s new policy toward Cuba. This report has more on such congressional opposition than most previous VOA reports. BBG Watch pointed out this previous lack of sufficient balance in VOA news reporting.

Obama: Talks With Castro ‘Candid and Fruitful’

 

AP photo of U.S. President Barack Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015. [Not reposted.]
 
Luis Ramirez
 
Last updated on: April 12, 2015 10:32 AM
 
PANAMA CITY—U.S. President Barack Obama is back in Washington, following a historic face-to-face meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro and a first meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
 
The talks with Castro in Panama were strongly criticized by some Republican presidential hopefuls.
 
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said in a statement, “Keeping up a disturbing trend of this administration, President Obama is in the process of striking another very bad deal, now with the communist dictatorship of Cuba.
 
“President Obama’s approach gives the Castros exactly what they want – economic relief and legitimacy on the international stage. … The President said today that his unprecedented meeting with Raul Castro was a step towards the future. Unfortunately, he is leaving the Cuban people imprisoned in the past,” he added.
 
Cruz, the son of an American mother and a Cuban father, would be the nation’s first Hispanic president, if elected.
 
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said on Twitter: “Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/@netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). Why legitimize a cruel dictator of a repressive regime?”
 
Talks in Panama
 
The historic talks in Panama, on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, came after Obama and Castro announced in December that they would move to normalize ties between the United States and communist Cuba after more than a half-century of animosity.
 
Obama characterized his meeting with Castro – the first sitdown between leaders of both nations in 50 years – as “candid and fruitful,” while the White House said Obama voiced support for a peaceful dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition during brief talks with Maduro.
 
The president also said he will review recommendations to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism – another step that needs to be taken before embassies can reopen in Washington and Havana.
 
‘Historic meeting’
 
“This is obviously a historic meeting. The history between the United States and Cuba is obviously complicated and over the years, a lot of mistrust has developed,” Obama said.
 
But Obama said it is time to turn the page, and Castro agreed, saying, “I think that, fundamentally, what the (U.S.) president has expressed to you reflects the same as what we are thinking.”
 
Yet the two acknowledged the differences that exist between the two governments.
 
Obama said the U.S. would speak out for democracy and human rights, and Cuba would raise concerns about U.S. policy as well.
 
“Over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries,” the U.S. president said.
 
As for Castro, he told Obama he agreed with all the points he’d made and said he was open to discussion, but “we need to be patient, very patient.
 
“We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow,” he said.
 
The Cuban leader said his government is willing to discuss all issues, including human rights if those discussions are respectful.
 
After Castro spoke, the men stood and shook hands.
 
At a late-afternoon news conference, Obama said that his trip to Panama City for his third Summit of the Americas reflected a new era of U.S. engagement in the region.
 
He said that part of his talks with Castro involved how to promote greater opportunities for the Cuban people, and how access to education could be expanded throughout Latin America.
 
“We are focused on the future and on what we can build and achieve together,” he said.
 
Majority support
 
In response to a question, Obama said his outreach to Havana had majority support in the United States and overwhelming support in Cuba. And with regard to the U.S. removal of Cuba from Washington’s state sponsors of terrorism list, he said he wanted to study recommendations from State Department officials “before we announce publicly what the policy outcome will be.”
 
Obama called his talks with Castro – two previous visits by phone and Saturday’s personal encounter – “candid and fruitful.”
 
“We are able to speak honestly about our differences and concerns in ways that offer the possibility” of taking bilateral relations in a different direction, he said.
 
“What has been clear through the summit,” he said, “is the unanimity that the leaders of Latin America think this is the right thing to do. They see the possibility of a more constructive dialogue that ultimately benefits the Cuban people. I am cautiously optimistic that, over coming months and years, this will lead to a different future for the Cuban people.”
 
Asked whether his outreach ended the policy of regime change in Cuba, Obama said: “We are not in the business of regime change. We are in the business of making sure the Cuban people have freedom and chance to shape their own lives.”
 
Cold War is over
 
But the U.S. leader wants to focus on the future and says he is not caught up in ideology.
 
“The Cold War has been over for a long time and I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born,” Obama said.
 
Obama said he came to the summit to boost his engagement with the hemisphere.
 
At this summit, an event usually ignored by the U.S. media, a handshake and words of conciliation mark the start of a major shift of the landscape.
 
Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.
 
Watch a related video of a meeting between President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro:
 
 

 
 

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