Monday, September 26, 2011

The Regime Strikes Back

Courageous human rights defenders, international news bureaus and regime repression strategies

Berta Soler and other Ladies in White made it to the Church despite regime efforts to stop them Photo by Fotos Desde Cuba

Cuba's Ladies in White and other opposition activists were beaten up and detained over the weekend and brutalized by mobs organized by state security agents and bussed in to harass and physically assault activists. Despite this a group of the women managed to evade state security and were able to attend Church and saw a demonstration of solidarity from hundreds of fellow Cubans in attendance also dressed in white.

How was this reported in the international media?

"Some 300 activists backing Cuba's Communist government shouted down 35 relatives of political prisoners, some of whom were roughed up, an AFP journalist witnessed."

The BBC described it as follows: "Government security agents looked on but did not intervene as the two groups argued. There was no violence."

Picture taken at "repudiation act" on Saturday that both AP and BBC said "no violence broke out" Photo by Fotos Desde Cuba

The Associated Press reported that "Authorities pulled a bus up to the door of the residence, but it soon left without any of the Ladies on board. It was unclear why the bus was brought to the scene.Beyond the pushing and yelling, no violence broke out. "

Spokeswoman Laura Pollan at the "repudiation act" on Saturday that both AP and BBC said that "no violence broke out" Photo by Fotos Desde Cuba

The dictatorship's state security buses in a mob to attack nonviolent activists and the reports describe them as "activists backing the government."

Bus brought in by regime agents with "repudiation act" mob Photo by Fotos Desde Cuba

When someone is picked up at their place of work and told that to hold on to their jobs and not be black listed at school they have to engage in a mob attack on dissidents or are themselves state security agents in either case they cannot be described fairly as "activists." It is at best poor reporting if not outright misrepresentation.

This was not the finest hour of the international news media. It is the third time in as many months that the behavior of the international news bureaus in Cuba have drawn attention due to the lack of objective coverage and either silence or slanting the news to favor the dictatorship.

Sadly, the regime strategy of reporters being expelled from Cuba when they report too often, for the dictatorship's liking, on opposition activities is effectively impacting media coverage in Cuba. This regime practice has gotten worse not better under Raul Castro.

Regime violence against opposition activists in Havana on September 24 that did not make the news (Video from Hablemos Press)

Editors should ask themselves is it really worthwhile to maintain a presence in Cuba if what is being reported does not reflect what is actually taking place? Worse yet that courageous bloggers and amateurs abroad are scooping the professional news media based in Cuba?

Right now if you want to know what is happening to human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists you are better off following Cuban bloggers and twitterers while being able to differentiate between those run by the regime and those that are authentically independent.

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