Double Standard & the Need to Speak the Truth

Fernando Ravsberg

From the Peace without Borders concert last year in Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, May 21 – Last weekend I participated in the New Journalism Congress in Santander, Spain, organized by the group “Diariocrítico” to mark the bicentennial of the beginning of the Latin American independence struggles.

Journalists and academics from both sides of the Atlantic met to exchange points of view on that event, as well as on the importance of the language, current bilateral relations, new technologies and new focal points for the future.

The work of the different groups proceeded quite harmonically until we touched on the topic of Cuba.  Strong passions were then unleashed, to the point where a Spanish journalist from one of the major media interrupted the speakers without even asking to be recognized.

During my exposition, I spoke of the need to tell the truth, include the context within which the news events occur, use a single standard to measure everyone and to express criticism without arrogance, because no one is the owner of the absolute truth.

I spoke about false stories, among them an extensive chronicle published this year by one of the largest Spanish newspapers, where they asserted that cartoons from the United States were prohibited in Cuba.

Actually, the vast majority of the cartoons that are broadcast on the Cuban television networks are from its northern neighbor, as are the movies and documentaries.  The reason is simple: thanks to the US embargo, Cuba doesn’t have to pay royalties.

Later on, I attempted to explain that if those of us in the media set our sights on promoting universal concepts such as democracy, political liberties or human rights, the only way to attain them must involve measuring all countries with the same yardstick.

The lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia should receive as much media coverage as that in Iran, while those held prisoner without trial in Guantanamo by the United States merit equal attention with the Cuban prisoners of conscience.

My commentary exploded like a spark in a barrel of gunpowder.  A colleague from an important media outlet in Madrid interrupted me in front of everybody to state that for him “the life of one Cuban is more important than that of 100 blacks.”

Another participant, a board member of a newspaper belonging to the most rancid wing of the Spanish right, insisted that the greater coverage was due to the close proximity of the two nations, adding that his grandfather was buried in Cuba and that Fidel Castro had seized all his family’s property.

The ripples ran through the Congress, and on its internet page it was stated that the topic of Cuba had destroyed the group’s consensus.  Nevertheless, colleagues from Paraguay, Panama, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela approached me to offer their support for my speech.

The theme of Cuba was also present when we spoke with high ranking functionaries, despite the fact that there were local issues of great importance, such as the announcement of a strong structural adjustment plan that would include salary reductions and freezing of pensions.

The Vice President of the Spanish government, Maria Teresa de la Vega, and the Iberian Secretary of State, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, were questioned about the policy of dialogue that Madrid maintains towards Havana.

De Laiglesia explained that “Spain proposes a period of reflection in Europe regarding the effectiveness of this policy following 14 years of application,” and challenged the journalists to try and encounter some benefit that had been obtained via this path.

Paradoxically, he also criticized the double standard.  “Cuba is the only country towards which the EU maintains a common position, despite the fact that there are others who leave much to be desired as far as compliance with the democratic norms or respect for human rights.”

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.