Extract of a speech delivered by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, President of the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power, on May 3, at an event held jointly by the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP) and the Cuban Association of Journalists (UPEC) for Press Freedom Day.
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WHEN THE U.S. Government rejected Gerardo Hernández Nordelo’s habeas corpus petition on April 25, it did so very categorically, without leaving any margin of doubt. Washington wants the court in Miami to declare his petition inadmissible and to do so summarily, without holding a hearing to examine its merits, without hearing Gerardo, without presenting the evidence it is hiding. This is how it responded to the last legal recourse of a human being sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
Washington asked for the appeals for Antonio Guerrero and René González to be dismissed in a similar manner.
These are three practically simultaneous actions that reveal the profoundly arbitrary and unjust nature of the U.S. system. They took place one week ago but have not become news, save for the mentions in our media.
The media dictatorship is probably currently the most efficient instrument in imperialism’s political hegemony. It largely dominates information on a global scale, determining what people are allowed to know and blocking whatever it wishes to conceal, with an iron fist.
The battle for the freedom of our Five compatriots can only be won if we understand this essential fact in today’s world, and are capable of acting accordingly.
Such iron-clad censorship is not accidental. Part of Gerardo’s appeal is based precisely on the concealment of evidence and the perverse function of the so-called information media.
It has to do with a case that practically no-one outside of Miami is aware of. The great media corporations imposed total silence toward the outside world while their correspondents in that city joined with the local media with their dubious reputation, in order to unleash a virulent campaign against the accused which contributed to creating what three judges from the Court of Appeals described as a “perfect storm” of prejudice and hostility, on which basis they decided to dismiss the trial.
Judge Lenard herself repeatedly protested the provocative actions that these supposed journalists were carrying out which created fear among the jurors who felt threatened.
In 2006 it was revealed that these provocateurs had received payments from the U.S. government to perform their dirty work. Since that date, various organizations in the United States have called on Washington to turn over the data it is hiding regarding the reach of the conspiracy whose existence is more than sufficient to prove the scandalous prevarication of the authorities.
For five years, those friends in the U.S. have engaged in efforts as noble as they are lonely, which have been completely unreported by the corporate media and very little has filtered out through those who consider themselves their alternative.
And so it has not been difficult for the U.S. government to maintain its obstinate position and continue imposing secrecy.
Nor has it found it particularly difficult to keep the satellite imagery it jealously guards from public view about the incident of February 24, 1996. Fifteen years ago it did not allow the investigators from the International Civil Aviation Organization to view them, it refused to present them to the court in Miami, and now it has reiterated its refusal. Its attitude of impeding others from seeing the proof that only Washington can access is so obvious and suspicious that in its lengthy 123-page argument with three appendices against Gerardo, it barely alludes to the matter in a twisted five line paragraph.
Allow me a brief review. Gerardo Hernández Nordelo had absolutely nothing to do with the downing of the aircraft on February 24, 1996. The U.S. government itself, that of W. Bush, acknowledged the lack of proof to sustain its accusation against Gerardo and asked to withdraw it at the last minute. It did so in an official document, titled “Emergency Petition” and which, according to they themselves, constituted an unprecedented action in the history of that country.
Here is the document, dated May 25, 2001 – soon it will be ten years old – but as far as those who call themselves “information media” it does not exist. I have inherited a certain tendency toward obstinacy from my Andalucian ancestors, and that’s why I carry it with me from time to time, because even gypsies believe in chance. You never know. Maybe one day someone will discover that this document exists.
Returning to the event of February 24, 1996. No U.S. court had jurisdiction over the matter, unless it had occurred in international airspace. The investigation performed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) revealed something surprising. Despite being warned beforehand by their government, the U.S. radar stations either did not register the event or offered contradictory data or destroyed the data. The only proof supplied by U.S. authorities is the testimony from the captain of a boat that operated – by coincidence? – out of Miami.
And so, the interest, first by the ICAO and later by Gerardo’s defense team, in the satellite imagery. The U.S. government never denied the existence of these images, it admitted having them, but it put a fifteen year prohibition on allowing anyone else to see them.
How can it be explained that they have successfully managed to hide them for such a long time? Simply because their revealing conduct has never become news, because they have been able to count on the complicity of the enormous media corporations, but also, it must be said, on our own laziness.
The worst enemy of press freedom is the media dictatorship exercised by the huge corporations which manipulate information and substitute an industry of deceit.
This dictatorship imposes the news menu that circulates through our newsrooms, its codes of language and interpretation circulating along with it. If we wish to develop truthful journalism, capable of transforming itself into a real alternative, it’s essential to go beyond the menu and find the truth in other sources. It is a professional necessity but also a duty of solidarity with those who, lacking resources, are waging hard battles alone. Assisting in the articulation of their scattered efforts is the obligation of a revolutionary press. It’s also the best recipe for curing the infection from those codes that circulate, often inadvertently, among ourselves.
Acting this way, we can also make news. Without inventing it or fabricating it, like the inventions and fabrications that are so abundant on the menu we are served day and night. By breaking the chains that lock up the truths such as those I’ve allowed myself to mention here. We ought to be, finally, like Julio Antonio Mella wanted us to be: “Thinking beings not driven ones.”
Text read as part of a speech given on May 3, 2011, in an event held jointly by the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP) and the Cuban Association of Journalists (UPEC) for Press Freedom Day.
(Translation from original Spanish by Machetera of the Tlaxcala Translators Network.)