Friday, September 08, 2006

Revealed: US Govt. Paid Cuban "Journalists"

The hits keep on coming. It'll be interesting to see if this much larger and troubling instance of Government-paid "journalists" gets anywhere near the play the Armstrong Williams story did. Also, check the name Juan Manuel Cao, who 2 months ago was the toast of Miami for his testy exchange with Fidel Castro, where Castro correctly pegged him as a paid mercenary of the US Government. At the time, Cuban-Americans had a field day with this "paranoid" acusation by Castro. Turns out it was 100% true. The 9 others are the cream of the anti-Castro crop in Miami. Looks as if the new owner at the Herald is getting serious about turning the rag into a place with actual journalistic ethics, rather than the biased, pay the piper feel-good rag it had been.

At least 10 local journalists accepted U.S. government pay for programs on Radio Martí or TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald fired two of them Thursday for conflict of interest.

Miami Herald

At least 10 South Florida journalists, including three from El Nuevo Herald, received regular payments from the U.S. government for programs on Radio Martí and TV Martí, two broadcasters aimed at undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro. The payments totaled thousands of dollars over several years.

Those who were paid the most were veteran reporters and a freelance contributor for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language newspaper published by the corporate parent of The Miami Herald. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and writes an opinion column, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio Martí and TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald freelance reporter Olga Connor, who writes about Cuban culture, received about $71,000, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covers the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years.

Alfonso and Cancio were dismissed after The Miami Herald questioned editors at El Nuevo Herald about the payments. Connor's freelance relationship with the newspaper also was severed.

Jesús Díaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of both newspapers, expressed disappointment, saying the payments violated a ''sacred trust'' between journalists and the public.

''Even the appearance that your objectivity or integrity might have been impaired is something we can't condone, not in our business,'' Díaz said. ``I personally don't believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it's a government agency.''

Other journalists receiving payments from the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio and TV Martí, included: Diario Las Americas opinion page editor Helen Aguirre Ferre and reporter/columnist Ariel Remos; Channel 41 news director Miguel Cossio; and syndicated columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner, whose opinions appear in the pages of El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald.


Radio and TV Martí are U.S. government programs created to promote democracy and freedom in Cuba. Their programming cannot be broadcast within the United States because of anti-propaganda laws. Radio and TV Martí have received $37 million this year.

The payments to journalists were discovered in documents recently obtained by The Miami Herald as a result of a federal Freedom of Information Request filed on Aug. 15.
Journalism ethics experts called the payments a fundamental conflict of interest. Such violations undermine the credibility of reporters to objectively cover key issues affecting U.S. policy toward Cuba, they said.

Iván Román, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the payments from TV and Radio Martí posed a clear conflict of interest.

The journalists involved are among the most popular in South Florida, and many were reporting on issues involving Radio or TV Martí for their news organizations.

Channel 41 reporter Juan Manuel Cao, who received $11,400 this year from TV Martí, made news in July when he confronted Castro during an appearance in Argentina by pressing the Cuban leader to explain why his government had not allowed a well-known doctor and dissident, Hilda Molina, to leave the island to visit her son in Argentina.

During the exchange, Castro openly questioned Cao if anyone was paying him to ask that question. The Cuban government has long contended that some South Florida Spanish-language journalists were on the federal payroll.

''There is nothing suspect in this,'' Cao said. ``I would do it for free. But the regulations don't allow it. I charge symbolically, below market prices.''
The Miami Herald's review of dozens of articles by the El Nuevo Herald journalists -- including several about TV Martí or Radio Martí -- found no instance in which the reporters or columnists disclosed that they had received payment.

Two ethics experts compared it to the case of Armstrong Williams in 2005, when it was revealed that the Bush administration had paid the prominent pundit to promote its education policy, No Child Left Behind, on his nationally syndicated television show.
Entire Miami Herald Article


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