By Ted (Tadeusz) Lipien
With Cubans protesting against the communist regime, Cuba is again in the news, including news by the U.S. government-managed and tax-funded Voice of America (VOA) in the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
This graphic was produced by the Voice of America Latin American Division in 2016 after Fidel Castro’s death and was used as the VOA Spanish Service Facebook page cover photo. The black color presumably symbolizes mourning and the red star over the letter “i” in Fidel Castro’s name is a communist symbol. Some countries, but not the United States with its First Amendment protection of free press, make displaying of Nazi and Communist symbols illegal. My questions are not with what is reported but how it is reported. While displaying Nazi and Communist symbols in the United States is not illegal, most media outlets avoid generating them on their own and use them only in news photographs connected with news reports.
The graphic, produced with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars, included the VOA logo with Voz de America (Voice of America) written underneath.
Were VOA editors insensitive to how victims of communism in Cuba, China, Russia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and in other countries would react to such a￼ glorification of a communist dictator? Two years later, in 2018, the Voice of America VOA News English-language global website had a news report with positive references to Che Guevara, another communist leader and Fidel Castro’s comrade, without mentioning any of his crimes.
The VOA-U.S. government broadcasters’ tribute to Fidel Castro did not include any references to the victims of his communist regime, refugees, including those who had died trying to escape from Cuba, or to Cuban-Americans forced to live in exile from their home country or the country of their parents and grandparents.
There may still be a few journalists working for VOA who are escapees or immigrants from countries formerly or currently ruled by Communists. I wonder if anyone was offended by this VOA graphic?
Should the Latin American Division Director, VOA Program Director, VOA Director, and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEOs, Directors and Board Members apologize to the victims of communism for this tribute to a communist dictator which ignored millions of Cubans still deprived of their basic human rights?
Tadeusz (Ted) A. Lipien is an international media executive, journalist, writer, blogger, and press freedom advocate. He worked in or wrote about U.S. international broadcasting for over 40 years, beginning as a radio announcer for the Voice of America (VOA) in 1973 and serving as Polish Service chief during Solidarity trade union’s struggle for democracy, Acting VOA Associate Director and for a short time as President of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). His articles on U.S. international broadcasting have been published in American Diplomacy Journal, National Review, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner and Digital Journal. His views on media have been quoted by CNN, NBC, FOX, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He is the author of a book published in English and Polish about feminism and Pope John Paul II, Wojtyła’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church.