Thursday, June 22, 2017

Director of U.S. office that oversees Radio, TV Martí resigns

Director of U.S. office that oversees Radio, TV Martí resigns

The director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the U.S. federal body
that oversees Radio and TV Martí as well as the Martí Noticias website,
resigned last week amid complaints by some dissidents and exiles about
OCB's editorial line.

"Every pressure cooker needs an escape valve. With my resignation, I am
only trying to put an end to the speculations and false accusations by
some sectors that are interested in taking over this job," OCB Director
Maria "Malule" Gonzalez told el Nuevo Herald.

"The campaign is not the only reason for my resignation," she added.
"It's [also] a matter of making way for whoever the [Trump]
administration wants to put in this job."

Gonzalez, who will remain at the head of the OCB until a new director is
appointed, added that her resignation had been voluntary.

Her statement referred to a campaign of criticisms against her in social
media and on the Hialeah Gardens-based television channel América TeVé.
Facebook users published her personal contacts, and she said she
received multiple calls with complaints.

A video broadcast by América TeVé after President Donald Trump's
election showed Cuban opposition activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known
as Antunez, urging Radio and TV Martí to "rethink the reasons why they
were created and again give some space to those of us who call Raúl
Castro a dictator."

On the same program, Marcell Felipe, who founded Inspire America, an
organization that promotes the work of dissidents like Antunez, accused
the broadcasters of having "become practically a propaganda tool for the
Castro regime." Felipe, a lawyer who also represents América TeVé, said
he was not speaking for the TV channel.

During the Obama administration, the Martí stations — first under the
direction of Carlos Garcia and since 2015 under Gonzalez — began making
a series of changes designed to bring their coverage in line with the
journalism standards of the Voice of America, another U.S. government
broadcaster, and expand their audience on the island through the
internet and the distribution of DVDs.

"In the last year we completed analysis and studies by third parties
that show the impact of the Martí stations on the island, and that our
decision to use the internet as an additional distribution channel was
right," Gonzalez said. "On Sept. 26 and 27 we will hold the second Cuban
Internet Freedom conference that was so successful last year."

But the shift of funds from the TV broadcasts — seldom seen on the
island because the Cuban government blocks them — to the digital content
and the decision to move away from propaganda and toward a more balanced
journalism have been criticized by some Cuban exiles as well as
opposition activists on the island.

"Those of us who called Fidel a tyrant rather than president, who were
totally opposed to the Obama policy [of engagement with Cuba], we had no
space there," Antunez told el Nuevo Herald.

A quick search of the Martínoticias website turned up 347 reports that
mentioned Antunez. But the coverage has been "too favorable" to the
Obama policies on Cuba, he replied, and there has been supposedly
"little follow-up" to news developments on the island.

"That broadcaster went from being a weapon at the service of freedom to
a weapon for agreeableness," he added. "I don't criticize the
institution. Radio and TV Martí are very important. I criticize the last
two managements, which served the Cuban American National Foundation and
Barack Hussein Obama by falsifying and sabotaging its editorial line."

The Cuban American National Foundation did not respond to a request for

The dispute over the Martí stations reflects the profound frustration
sparked by President Barack Obama's decision to warm relations with Cuba
among some dissidents on the island as well as exiles abroad and renews
an old argument about the goals and efficacy of the broadcasters.

Felipe said he believes the stations should work clearly for "regime
change" in Cuba, and complained that there has been a lack of "political
will" at the OCB to implement new technologies that would make TV
Martí's signal available in Cuba.

The lawyer added that Cuban exiles will be "very happy" when the name of
the next OCB director becomes known. It will not be him, he added.

Regulations issued by the Obama administration require the OCB director
to be appointed by the Broadcasting Board of Government, the agency that
supervises all U.S. government broadcasts, rather than the White House.
The BBG did not respond to a request for comments.

Gonzalez said she will be leaving behind "a more agile and efficient
organization that now has new distribution channels, one of the biggest
challenges of this institution. The three platforms are working as one …
with one voice."

The thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations under Obama raised many questions about
the future of Radio and TV Martí, whose operations have long been
questioned by members of Congress and other agencies.

One bill that would have totally eliminated the Martí broadcasters was
submitted to Congress in 2015. And the Obama administration floated one
proposal to turn the OCB into a federal contractor, like the other
broadcasters under BBG supervision. That generated fears among its
employees that they would lose their federal benefits. The proposal has
not yet been adopted.

The Trump administration's budget proposal for 2018 includes cuts of $4
million to $5 million in OCB financing.

"I continued meanwhile to work strongly in OCB," Gonzalez said. "Last
week, I announced the appointment of Wilfredo Cancio as news director …
and we are just weeks away from completing the revitalization plan that
we started at the beginning of the year."

Source: Director of U.S. office that oversees Radio, TV Martí resigns |
Miami Herald -

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