Monday, October 29, 2018

TV Marti and "balance" (link restored)

Tomas Regalado, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting that houses Radio and TV Marti, is a rare Trump appointee who strongly opposed President Trump’s candidacy. He was mayor of Miami and before that, a prominent radio journalist. Recalling a feature of his own radio program, he has brought a fact-checking feature (Detector de Mentiras) to the Martis’ website.

When Mother Jones wrote last Friday about the TV Marti program that smeared George Soros, Regalado responded directly: “Judicial Watch is a good source, but having said that, it should not have been the only source. The two part series was not precise and did not have on the record sources to balance the story…To be fair and to show that we in the new administration are committed to journalistic integrity, the stories have been pulled out of the digital page, not because we want to hide anything, but because we want to be transparent if we say that the story did not have the required balance, then it should not be on the air.” By “new administration” he means his own stewardship because he started in his job shortly after the Soros program aired.

It is good that he responded personally and critically. But while he stands up for “journalistic integrity,” he whitewashes the problems with the program. A few things need to be pointed out.

“Judicial Watch is a good source,” Regalado says, but what is he talking about? One of the strange aspects of the program is that the narrator repeatedly mentions Judicial Watch but no one from that organization is quoted, none of its work is cited, none of its people appear on camera. (Fox News, by the way, dumped Judicial Watch’s research director last weekend for statements about Soros’ secret control of the State Department, but the organization is a “good source” for Radio/TV Marti.)

This idea that the program lacked “balance,” additional sources, or on-the-record statements misses the mark. What it lacked was truthful information to support its wild assertions – for example that Soros was the “architect” of the financial crisis in 2008 and that he is now making money from his political activism. Or, as persons quoted in the program assert, that he financed Gorbachev, has destabilized countries, and seeks to undermine democracies and turn Latin American countries into satellites of Cuba. Reporting a series of blatant falsehoods is not remedied by “balance.” You don’t have to be a journalist to realize this.

The program was thoroughly promoted by TV Marti. For example, there’s the Levantate Cuba morning program, where host Maite Luna interviews Isabel Cuervo, the narrator of the Soros program who claims to have conducted the “investigation” of the subject matter.

The passage beginning at 5:06 here and in the clip above is emblematic. (Sorry for the audio, it's my own recording of the video that was pulled from the government site.) At this point they are running an excerpt from the Soros program. Over scary sound effects, the narrator explains that Soros spends millions in “hundreds of countries” and is “accused thus of influencing, with his fortune, in their political and social destinies, in order to later take out revenue in the millions.” (Accused by whom, she doesn’t say.) Lia Fowler then appears very briefly on camera saying it is “much easier to work with a dictator than in a democracy and an open market.” Then with Fowler no longer on camera, the narrator attributes to her the idea that “behind the magnate is a hidden craving for global power.” Then the narrator mentions Soros’ support for communications media and nongovernmental organizations on five continents and says: “Latin America does not escape his spell.” During this, on the screen are images of a wall being spraypainted, street demonstrations, a burning effigy of President Trump, and a line of masked demonstrators hurling projectiles. The excerpt ends; back in the studio, the host Maite Luna says that Soros engages in philanthropy, “but he is also very dangerous, that he is giving and offering money where it can end up being a danger – that government – for the society.”

This is not journalism, it is a smear; none of the accusations are supported. No “balance” can improve it. Worse, it touches on all the themes that have been central to anti-Semitic screeds throughout history.

I assume that many of the journalists at Radio/TV Marti are repulsed by this program and the stain it puts on their organization and U.S. international broadcasting. Neither Radio/TV Marti nor its governing body have addressed a word to their audience, to say nothing of Mr. Soros. The silence is deafening.

1 comment:

Coach Hull said...

Thank you for flagging this. It is unconscionable that such blatant antisemitism is being spread by our own government.