The media coverage of the Libyan conflict in relation to Cuba is at best confused and at worst purposefully biased. Castro – who neither explicitly nor implicitly implied support for Gaddafi – has been tacitly equated to the Libyan leader in media discourse and this represents irresponsible and subjective reporting.
Last week Fidel Castro warned against the possibility of U.S intervention in Libya and argued that any Western involvement in the country would be motivated by oil.
According to Castro, “the government of the United States is not worried at all about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate in giving NATO the order to invade that rich country”. He went on to echo the response from Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolás Maduro when he said that he was “wishing that the Libyan people would find, in the exercise of their sovereignty, a peaceful solution to their difficulties, that would preserve the integrity of the Libyan people and nation, without the interference of imperialism”.
Castro urged that the mainstream media should be viewed with caution – especially following William Hague’s statement that alleged Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela. Hague’s assertion was reported as fact by the press – despite proving to be false – and as soon as it was confirmed Chavez had not offered Gaddafi political sanctuary, his name should have been dropped from media coverage. Far from this happening – and without an apology being issued – the British press has continued to draw implicit parallels between Libya and Venezuela.
The BBC also reported that “Mr Castro and Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi have been allies for many years” but Castro’s statement made no reference to support for his “ally”. Furthermore, whilst perpetuating the imagined link between Cuba and Libya, the BBC failed to report that the weapons which Gaddafi is using against his population have been supplied by Britain.
The BBC wrote that “Mr Castro makes no direct reference to reports from Libya that clashes between security forces and protesters left hundreds dead”. This represents irresponsible and biased reporting because the subtle implication is that – by not mentioning the violence – Castro is somehow demonstrating support for Gaddafi. This undercurrent parallels unfounded views in the Guardian’s Comment is Free website which suggest Castro is supporting Gaddafi and denying support for mass movement.
Much of the editorial lines being adopted in the British press are regurgitated from anti-Cuban media in the United States which accuse Castro of “openly supporting the Libyan dictator” and state that Gaddafi “has deployed helicopters and jets to crush the uprising, allegedly flown by mercenaries from Eastern Europe, Cuba and elsewhere”. The only statement made by Castro on the subject has expressed support for the people, repudiated injustice and warned against misinformation and imperialist military intervention. There is no evidence that Cubans are being employed as Gaddafi’s mercenaries and this spurious claim can be dismissed as fabricated nonsense.
Castro’s views have been re-emphasised by Cuba’s representative to the Human Rights Council, Rodolfo Reyes, who has championed the right of the Libyan people to self-determination and opposed military intervention because “instead of resolving the problem, it would only exacerbate the situation, bringing about serious implications”. Reyes makes it explicitly clear that, “no honest person can approve of the deaths of innocent civilians”. Again, Reyes makes no mention to support for Gaddafi.
The media is responsible for reporting events accurately, transparently and openly. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Cuba, it has failed in its primary function.