Various US Government reports indicate that programs on Radio Marti “don’t adhere to generally accepted journalistic standards.”
By Alejandro Armengol (Cubaencuentro)
HAVANA TIMES — A few years ago, journalists who collaborated with Radio Marti received a document which outlined the ethical and journalistic norms that these media should abide to. If the aforemetioned document is still valid, both stations, which are overseen by the US Office of Cuba Broadcasting, are doing very little to obey it.
Both Radio and TV Marti have diverted from the original idea of providing objective and uncensored information to the Cuban people, and have become a simple instrument to Miami’s exile sector. And this has gotten much worse over the almost eight years of President Barack Obama’s presidency.
It was precisely during Obama’s administration that problems which had affected the development of an independent informative news outlet, by a news service which was paid for by US taxpayers, became routine practice, and the worst thing is that today, there doesn’t seem to be any interest in overseeing and controlling a job which has lately escaped even criticisms from other media outlets.
Nowadays, Radio and TV Marti seem to exist in a kind of Limbo where their future is uncertain and nobody seems to be worried about it. Speculations about them possibly going off the air, or privatizing the way it is administrated while still being funded with public funds are hardly spoken about. Inertia seems to prevail in a project which in the beginning signified a determination to inform the masses, however, now it only conveniently serves local interests in Miami.
The false news report about “The Farinas Amendment”, published on the website, is a good example of how much credibility government radio stations have lost. The text itself could serve as an example, for any level of journalistic studies, of the mistakes you should avoid making in journalism.
Under the heading “The European Union approves the Farinas Amendment”, Marti news published alleged information where the source wasn’t specified at any point. If at another time, Radio and TV Marti regulations demanded that no news report be published without verifying its origins with two independent sources – something which, on the other hand, was not always done -, not even one source has been mentioned here. The entire article was nothing more than a copy paste job of a “news story” about an amendment, which was allegedly voted on Monday by the European Parliament, which is absolutely false.
There is no justification whatsoever for a government media institution to commit a mistake on this scale. Other media platforms, such as The New Herald were more cautious in feeling out how questionable this information was, because they simply carried out the essental task of trying to verify the truthfulness of this piece of news by looking at independent media.
Being a journalist doesn’t just entail echoing anything that appears on the internet, but checking and verifying what is going to be published. Otherwise, journalism just becomes a sounding board. If this had happened on a blog, that would be understandable. However, when it’s a news organization that is committing such a grave mistake, with a million dollar budget, a correction should at least be made.
All of this becomes much more serious when you consider the fact that a government broadcasting network doesn’t act – or shouldn’t act – using the same criteria as that of a private company. It doesn’t rely on advertisers or ratings to guarantee that it remains up and running. It is supposedly meant to work independently and in line with higher standards. The credibility of both broadcasting stations has unfortunately hit the floor in a scenario where they are not distinguishing between what is right, from a moral standpoint, and appropriation, benefitting a select few using money which is supposedly meant to spread news to Cuba.
The case of the fake news report about the “Farinas Amendment” and its propagation on Martinews isn’t an isolated event. News articles written by “independent journalists” who never verify their sources frequently appear on this website, lacking follow up and seem to be directed at catching people’s attention at a certain moment and then disappearing away again, in the media’s worst “sensationalist” style. Complaints and negative reports about the US Government’s two broadcasting stations based in Miami have been repeated for years now, without anything being done to resolve it.
Although Radio Marti was created in 1983 – and TV Marti in 1990 – to provide Cubans with trustworthy and unbiased news, several reports written up by the US Government itself have highlighted the fact that “they don’t adhere to generally accepted journalistic standards” and that they use “offensive and inflammatory language” and that Cubans on the island question its “objectivity”.
Contracts handed out have been questioned by the Congress’ Office because of irregularities; its news reports have sparked the fury of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) at times; audience ratings put the relationship they have with hundreds of millions of USD to keep it running into question, just like the failure to improve TV Marti broadcasts; the ludicrous projects they’ve had such as the famous hot-air balloon which has only meant that tens of millions of USD have been lost down the drain before it disappeared; it’s airspace has been used to propagate Republican presidential candidates’ political adverts; and its initial objective has been debated time and time again.
If Radio and TV Marti have succeeded in doing anything under Obama’s Government, it has served well as a vehicle to pay back the political favors that were given during the actual resident of the White House’s presidential campaign. However, the objective of better-informing Cubans on the island remains an unresolved issue on the part of these US Government broadcasting stations.