US Media Provide Biased Coverage of Cuban and Colombian Protests

The US media covered the protests in Cuba with a “more negative” hue than in Colombia. This bias is one of the public results of an analysis that evaluated how The New York Times Y The Washington Post reported on the demonstrations that took place in both countries.

According to a note published by the North American Congress on Latin America (Nacla, for its acronym in English), research conducted by Mikael Wolfe and Jessica Feminias from Stanford University, showed that the US corporate media set, to a large extent, the terms of the debate around the country’s foreign policy, by determining how US and international audiences and politicians perceive the actions of the Cuban government. .

To arrive at that thesis, the study’s authors examined coverage of the July 11 protests in Cuba and the riots in Colombia that began ten weeks earlier, on April 28, over a period of six to eight weeks from the day on protests erupted in every nation. The following table shows the quantitative and qualitative results of the analysis:

Although the disturbances in Colombia lasted longer and were highly repressed by the Government and its security forces, The interest of the US Administration in criminalizing Cuba is notable.

Ten weeks after the repression continued in Colombia-the Nacla-Biden note specifies-he had not even threatened to suspend any part of the $460 million in US aid earmarked for that country for fiscal year 2021. However,sentences a day after July 11, Biden not only condemned the Cuban government, but also tightened sanctions against it, a decision that came after the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned the US embargo in a vote in which, the United States and Israel were the only countries that voted against, while Brazil, Ukraine and Colombia abstained.

Although the protests in Colombia persisted for five days before any of the newspapers reported on it, coverage of Cuba began within hours of the protests beginning attracting “disproportionate attention: 13 articles for Cuba versus 12 for Colombia in The New York Times and 36 articles for Cuba versus only 13 for Colombia in The Washington Post”.

According to the research, qualitatively, there was also a marked difference. News coverage and commentary in both papers used much more positive descriptions of the Cuban protesters, cast as “courageous”, “fearless”, “oppressed”, “peaceful”, “asking/longing/fighting for freedom” and “ pro-democracy”. Almost all the articles expressed their solidarity with the protesters, including the news, such as the headline ” ‘The spark has been lit’: Cuban dissidents feel emboldened despite repression”.

In contrast, descriptions of the Cuban government were almost all negative, calling it “authoritarian,” “draconian,” “autocratic,” “dictatorship,” “repressive,” “thug,” “totalitarian,” and “police state.”

Furthermore, although the national government controls the police in both countries, only the Cuban police were treated as representative of the government’s attitude towards its citizens. In Colombia, the police were described as outside government control, as in the head of The Post “ The Colombian police are repressing the protests. That can be counterproductive.”

Another important criterion in the investigation was to examine how the press releases described US policy towards the two countries. The impact of the US blockade imposed on Cuba more than 60 years ago was dismissed “as a secondary cause of the protests or as propaganda by the Cuban government that sought to divert attention from state actions that contributed to popular discontent.” In contrast, neither of the two newspapers published an article that evaluated the consequences of the US sanctions that exacerbate the social and economic effects of COVID-19, declared by Cuba to be the main cause of the protests.

The Colombia Post and Times coverage mostly ignored any US involvement. With the notable exception of an op-ed in The Post, few articles and commentaries mentioned, let alone independently investigated, the well-documented fact that decades of US military aid and training have contributed to violations of the human rights by the Colombian government. A news article in The Post headlined “Duque’s repressive security forces have failed Colombia,” even wrongly suggested that US aid had improved Colombia’s police conduct for a time.

In reality, the difference between conservative and liberal US news coverage of Cuba is one of degree, not kind, because both clearly uphold the imperatives of US foreign policy.

(Taken from Cubajournalists)

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