Defending media freedom is a real problem. Sometimes your allies say or do things that just aren’t right. But that is price one pays.
The left and right all make noises about the importance of press freedom. But as soon as the extremes in either side get the power to shut down they free press they take it. Pinochet and Duarte hardly tolerated criticism of their governments. And we all know how much Cuba and China tolerate independent media.
So it was interesting to read a story from Miami, National Circle of Journalists from Cuba Passes on Honoring a Cuban Journalist that started out great and then fell flat on its face at the end.
For the first time in its 15-year history, the National Circle of Journalists from Cuba did not give out an award recognizing a heroic colleague on the mainland when they commemorated Cuban Journalist Day on October 25.
It wasn’t that reporters on the island were no longer risking arrest by stealthily passing information to a foreign correspondent. Or that there weren’t still those posting anonymous blogs on the tightly State-controlled Internet. Or even that mimeographed dispatches were no longer being surreptitiously distributed.
The problem, group leaders say, was that the circle couldn’t contact any of the candidates to inform them they would be winning an award that could place them “at great risk.”
So far so good.
The concern are real. Cuba is one gigantic prison for journalists. With 21 journalists in jail it is only surpassed by China with 28. But on a per-capita basis, Cuba is #1. (BTW, Burma is #3 with 14 journalists behind bars.)
Then at the end, according to the article, the Circle stuffed its collective feet into its collective mouths:
There, in the back room, after singing the American, Honduran and Cuban national anthems, Carreño presented the award to “Roberto Micheletti and his valorous Honduran people who have made manifest their love of liberty with courage and determination” for keeping Mel Zelaya out of power.
Micheletti is hardly a small “d” democrat. And by saying that does not imply support for the whack job Zelaya.
But the coup was outside the limits of the constitution. If the so-called freedom loving people wanted to remove Zelaya, there was a process for that within the constitution. And Micheletti was not in the line of succession.
That’s the politics of the situation.
For a journalist Zelaya was no rock solid friend. Chances are, given time, he would have followed his buddy and free media rapist Hugo Chavez. But he hadn’t done that yet.
Micheletti, on the other hand, moved quickly to suppress media freedom. He even went as far as announcing suspension of the constitution. That last action got him in hot water with many of his supporters. (But not all. Did anyone hear complaints from the Micheletti supporters in the States? I thought not.)
So now a deal has supposedly been cut to end the crisis in Honduras. Let’s see if the guys making the deal also protect press freedom.