The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 06-11-2002

Related links:
Carter's trip to Cuba reignites embargo debate
FCN 05-28-2002
Pope to U.S.: Lift Cuban embargo
FCN 02/03/1998
Granma Internacional
Cuba's News Agency


Black journalists get close-up view of Cuba

by Nisa Islam Muhammad
Staff Writer

HAVANA, Cuba (óThe Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies at Delaware State University, under the direction of USA Today syndicated columnist DeWayne Wickham, organized a delegation of Black journalists for a journey to Cuba May 20-26. This prestigious group will report on life behind the U.S. blockade and document the African influence on this tiny island nation.

The week included a symposium with Cuban journalists, press conferences with Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament, and Ruben Remigio, president of the Cuban Supreme Court, tours of Granma newspaper, the Cuban radio and TV institute and a private session with Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando.

"This has been for me and all the delegation a wonderful and enlightening experience. We learned a lot about Cuba and you learned a lot about us," explained Mr. Wickham to the Cuban journalists. "We come in support of freedom for people all over the world to decide how they will live. Our quest is for the truth."

Much has been written recently about Cuba with former President Jimmy Carterís trip making headlines nationwide. Americans know Cuba through the lens of major media and most times White journalists.

This group of seasoned and experienced journalistsóincluding the likes of columnists Clarence Page of the Chicago Sun-Times, George Curry, editor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Betty Baye of the Louisville Courier Journal and James Ragland of the Dallas Morning Newsóhas the awesome responsibility of reporting through the lens of Black America.

"When we come to you, we donít just come ourselves," explained Ms. Baye. "We bring our family and friends with us. We talk for Black people who will never see the island. We are branches on the same tree."

The Cuban journalists received the group with open arms and well wishes. The group discussed differences in reporting. The Cuban journalists represent and support the government of Fidel Castro.

"We have created in Cuba a mass media agency that the society has power over," explained Jose Diego Nusa of the journal National Agency and Information. "This is the first difference between us. After the revolution we created a system that eliminated private property over the media. Cuban journalists are committed to telling the truth."

The press in Cuba is government-owned and operated. Many have criticized the Cuban government for not allowing freedom of the press but the Cuban journalists see themselves in a different light.

"We support our government. We can also criticize our government to make it better. We criticize from a revolutionary position," said Alicia Centell. "Every American president would love to have the media as an instrument."

While the American journalists spoke of the freedom of the press, Jorge Martinez, president of the Journalists Union, said, "Mass media freedom is not real. Itís a lie. Itís a freedom that the owner and publisher has to print according to their interests.

"We belong to different societies. In Cuba we have a revolution. In the U.S., you donít. We canít measure one another. Our mass media canít be the same. We canít compare. Itís not equal. Weíre at war with an embargo against Cuba," he said.

For more than 40 years, the U.S. has enforced an embargo against Cuba that prohibited the sale of food, medicine, travel, trade and more. When Cubans need rice, they have to buy it from China at a far greater expense than they would if they could buy it from the U.S. only 90 miles away.

"Weíve resisted the embargo," explained Parliament President Alarcon. "More Americans are realizing itís a failed policy. Itís been more than 40 years and it hasnít achieved its stated goals."

"You can continue with the policy but Cuba will continue advancing. Youíre facing a more severe threat for the defeat of the policy. Youíre moving in the direction when no one will care about the embargo."

After President Carterís visit, he called for lifting the embargo. But President Bush has said the embargo will remain until the country has democratic elections.

While President Carter was in Cuba, the U.S. media fanned a story that the tiny nation was trying to develop bio-terrorism. Subsequent reports and even Mr. Carter showed that the information coming from the White House was far less than the truth.

Later in the week, the journalists explored the African influence in art, music, religion and tourism. Their first report will be given at the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in July.

The delegation also included actor Tim Reid and a video crew responsible for documenting the trip, former CBS producer Adrienne Jordan, Florida Times Union columnist Tonya Weathersbee, David Persons, editorial writer and columnist for the Huntsville Times, Ndeye Walton, producer of BETís Lead Story, Blair Walker, contributing editor for Savoy magazine, Carucha Muse, a news photographer for the Huntsville Times and Jeff Aaron, business writer for the Elmira Star Gazette.

1-Cuban children take time to pose for a picture
2-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando

3-Delegation of Black journalists visit Cuba
Photos: Nisa Islam Muhammad




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