BBG Watch Commentary
Two days after an incident involving American journalists from a related media outlet covering Cuban-American news, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) Spanish language news website, voanoticias.com, is still silent Monday afternoon (3PM ET, April 13, 2015) on the harassment of TV Marti reporters by Cuban security officials and their expulsion from a press conference in Panama (Saturday, April 11) following the meeting between President Obama and Cuban dictator Raul Castro.
Voice of America Spanish Service is showing on its homepage a banner promoting coverage of U.S – Cuba rapprochement which leads to a page, “EE.UU. – Cuba” (U.S.A. – Cuba News), that as of 3PM ET Monday, April 10 has not been updated since April 10.
As of 3PM ET Monday, April 13, the lead story on that page says that “before heading to Panama President Barack Obama spoke by phone with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.”
The VOA Spanish report, “Obama y Castro hablan antes de encuentro en Panamá | VOA Spanish, posted on April 10, is showing only 2 Facebook “Shares,” 6 Tweets, and 0 (zero) comments as of 3:48 PM ET, Monday, April 13.
Featured image: Voice of America Spanish website banner promoting coverage of U.S – Cuba rapprochement.
Voice of America Spanish Service has not posted anything about the incident on its Facebook page.
It took Voice of America English language website, voanews.com, about 24 hours, to post a short news report on Sunday at 3:53 PM ET about the incident which took place on Saturday. But as of 2:00 PM ET Monday, Voice of America Spanish language website still has nothing about harassment and expulsion of U.S. journalists by Cuban officials.
Both Voice of America and TV Marti (Radio and TV Marti are part of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting) are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), federal agency in charge of all U.S. international media outreach.
The BBG issued a press release on the harassment of TV Marti reporters by Cuban security officials in Panama a full day before Voice of America English website posted its news item. At least some if not all BBG board members are believed to be extremely unhappy with Voice of America executives over this and other VOA news reporting and management failures, sources told BBG Watch.
Radio and TV Marti reported extensively on the incident and posted a video showing the expulsion shot by CNN Spanish.
VOA’s voanews.com English language website has been notorious for posting news late or not reporting at all or reporting superficially on important U.S. and international news stories. VOA’s voanoticias.com Spanish language website has been observed to be even less timely with news posting and less frequently updated in recent years.
Critics blame these problems on senior Voice of America officials, declining staffing, and diminishing resources while VOA’s and agency’s bureaucracy kept expanding at a rapid rate.
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.”
BBG’s first CEO, Andy Lack, left his post recently after only a few weeks on the job.
A VOA Newsroom reporter who wants to remain anonymous told BBG Watch: “After Andy Lack’s departure, it seems that everything is falling badly apart. The agency is practically headless. God knows who is calling the shots these days.” A VOA reporter told BBG Watch earlier: “VOA’s top echelon must wake up. Congress is not going to let this situation to continue.”
A former VOA broadcaster observed: “In the not too distant past, VOA was a 24/7 operation, now it’s 9 to 5 with weekends evidently off as if news suddenly stopped happening.”
“As a first step, it’s time to admit that a part-time Board (BBG) and a suffocating bureaucracy (IBB) has to go to make U.S. international broadcasting relevant again.”
BBG Press Release
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.