November 2006: Censorship

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November 2006: Censorship

Since I am not a specialist within the information techniques field, I would have to limit myself to my own personal experiences, based on a time-frame period of about half a century of journalism practices in France as well as Spain. The lesson learned from glancing back in time, is that the career of journalism, has been adapting itself to the changes of the capitalistic evolution (if capitalism itself has not precede it yet.) When I started as a journalist, in 1960, the government imposed censorship; now censorship is on the hands of industrialists. Around five or six years ago, the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, declared, in an outburst of sincerity (which was widely criticized) that the governments could do nothing against the powers of multinational corporations, including those over the media.

In 1960, I began to work in the Spanish section of Radio France, which name changed, and now is called Radio France International. Part of the team was Mario Benedetti, Mario Vargas Llosa, Severo Sarduy and other well-known writers. The Ministry of Outer Relations primarily did censorship; Quaid d’Orsay gave us the informative bulletins and commentaries in French to be translated in the different languages (English, German and Spanish, etc) with limitations that shouldn’t be surpassed. Fernando del Paso, who worked in BBC, told me once that at his work place the same circumstances took place. Once someone placed an official complaint because he added in one of his writings “The elected President Salvador Allende”, when the word “elected” was not part of the Foreign Office official text.

In very rare occasions, the government loss power, such as that time in 1966, when Claude Haquin, a guest collaborator from La Havana Radio came to visit us, and officially proposed our participation in a international “radio-phone” contest organized by Cuba. We participated clandestinely - “From Bastilla to Moncada” – we won the first prize, however, management found out and prohibited us, to go to Havana to claim the prize. Our back then director, Andre Camp, paid a high price for such a happening…. it costed him his position. Nothing happened to me, because immediately after that, came May 1968 and the government had to “let go” of many things, which gave me the opportunity to travel to Cuba and claim the prize…. better late than never.

This period of shameless behavior and direct intervention from the government lasted through 1981, when Francois Mitterrand took power. Since then, all sections of the media elaborate their own informative bulletins. In mentioned year, I was named Service Director for Spain and Latin America, and I can assure anyone that there was no intervention from the government within the media. I only had a problem with a journalist, which management tried to impose upon me, in which case, I fully refused y to accept, unless that journalist was put through the habitual tests, pass them, and I was given, and special budget…. Let me say no more than there were not more talks about this issue again.

Back at that time, I was also in charged of the transmissions in the Gallego language of Radio France, during the Franco period. Through the frequency radio-waves passed different people like Celso Emilio Ferreiro, Jose Luis Mendez Ferrin, Manuel Maria, Jose Maria Castroviejo amongst others intellectuals whom compromised themselves, engaging in the war against fascism. Jose Maria de Areilza, count of Metrico, was Spain’s ambassador back then, the “libera’l franquista” who intervened before the French government to stop the transmittals in Gallego language, as well as Euquera and Catalan languages.

Since we are discussing the issues within the radio world, I must mention that at the time I was the substitute correspondent of the National Radio of Spain; which meant that when Angel Rosello, the head anchor, got sick or took a vacation, I took his place. In 1969, I had the opportunity to do mentioned duties; in this year Franco named Juan Carlos his successor as the King. On that day we were going to develop a multiplex, with the correspondents from Paris, Rome, London and New York. The notorious radio-host, Victoriano Fernandez Asis, was directing the radio-show from Madrid. At the evening’s eve the theme for the following day was established and a periodical about what was broadcast in each country had to be prepared…. everyone exposed their own vision, until one day I was asked, “And what is being said in Paris, Chao?” “Well, here I didn’t find a comment” I answered. “Oh come on man, there must be something! No?” he suggested. “Well, no…here we don’t talk about any of that!” On the next day, Mr. Asis asked everyone, one by one, what was going on at every country, except me, and I remained mute. Never again was I asked to replaced Rosello.

It was a case of flagrant dictatorial censorship…let me mention that a contract had not being offered/established to me yet.

In 1967, I was a correspondent to the newspaper “El Alcazar” which wasn’t the ultra-right periodical that it is today, but just a regular periodical, like other ones; and it belonged to the Opus Dei aperturista, with a lot desire to enter Europe by playing a liberal position. In 1968, I got to be well known in Spain thanks to the Mayo Frances. I knew the masterminds of that movement, Cohn Bendit, Sauvageot and some others, and published many good interviews that left behind a whole deal to talk about; even the Minister of Information, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, major opponent al Opus Dei, decided to take away the paper from their hands and give it to his friends, The Brotherhood of the Defendants of the Alcazar of Toledo, ultra-right wing, which to this day still publish it, although nobody probably remembers the Alcazar of Toledo anymore. Immediately I resigned, and I did at the right time, otherwise I would have gotten fired anyways.
I don’t know how to categorize this censorship. Perhaps governnamental, because it was already showing political interests towards certain groups imposing pressure of internal battle within the franquismo: phalange against Opus Dei.

After my resignation I began to write on the “Galician Voice” newspaper of the Coruña directed by Francisco Pillado, a progressive person with a lot of integrity, and sympathizer of the Socialist Popular Party, founded back then by Enrique Tierno Galvan, the future major of Madrid. I used to take care of a very extensive weekly chronicle by the title of “Paris to the four winds” where political struggles took place, and the hand of Manuel Fraga Iribarne maneuvered. A complot developed by minister Fraga, and established by Maria Victoria Armesto (journalist in the periodical along with her spouse, Augusto Assia, who posed as a liberal) against the director of the chronicle took place. Between Fraga and the couple, they supplanted Mr. Pillado, the director, who decided to retire and had the initiative to study piano; I left on my own, in order to show my solidarity to him.

Is clear in this case, that the political and industrial censorship merged together as one.

I suffered another censorship, but this time it was worse. When I came back from Cuba, after claiming the prize for the contest of Radio Havana, I wrote five articles about the time I stayed in the islands. I use the plural form, because one of them versed about the Island of the Pines, which had recently become the Island of Youth. Where could I publish the articles? I had several options in Spain, and decided to offer my articles to the Pueblo vertical union (phalanges). But why? Because I remembered Jean-Paul Sartre; Sartre published his own articles about Cuba in the periodical “France-Soir” which gave away millions of pamphlets, instead of publishing them on his own magazine “Les Temps Modernes”. But not everybody is Jean Paul Sartre and the Pueblo vertical union – the highest ranking in Spain, which published my first two articles. From the third article and on (about the Island of Youth), censorship took place, and my existentialist illusion got destroyed. Afterwards, I found out that there have been direct intervention from the minister of Information, Don Manuel Fraga Iribarne, of whom I would like to say few words, since he has appeared enough times on this discussion.

I have known Don Manuel since I was little. We come from the same town of Villalba, and his house was 50 meters apart from mine. It happens, that as far as I can remember, I was a prodigious child on the piano. At the age of six, my fame extended throughout the outskirts of the town, and at the age of ten I played my first concert on the “Center for the Arts”. Manolito Fraga, by then a prominent attorney, used to go to my house to hear me play, and since he was a renowned lawyer, he helped me in getting scholarships to broaden my academics, first in Madrid, and then in Paris. As soon as I got to the French capital, our political views began to diverge, without affecting our friendship. Having said that, I can say that Fraga Iribarne was the person who helped me the most with my career as a piano player, and the person who most harmed my career as a journalist.

With the “Triunfo” magazine, he harmed the magazine, the readers, the democracy, and me. You should know that “Triunfo” was the most important anti-Franco publication, due to its content.

There was a time in which Fraga dressed as a democrat and suppressed censorship; and the international media praised this progressive measure. In reality it was worst: governmental censorship was suppressed due to being too ruthless, but on its placed penitentiary censorship was placed. Every newspaper director and journalist could freely write and publish whatever they wanted, but anyone then, could take them to court for it. With this humble legislative maneuver, Fraga finished “Triunfo”. It was sentenced to three months of closure and the usual fine for two articles: one titled “Marriage in Spain”, and the other one a question: “Are we ready for change?”

So, from the dictatorial censorship, we moved to a mob-censorship, to arrive to a judicial censorship.

But the evolution continues, in this current year, Ignacio Ramonet as well as myself, have being victimized by industrial censorship:

We both have been writing a wide variety of weekly articles en the periodical “Voice of Galician”. Suddenly, last May of 2006, the proprietor of the newspaper, forced the resignation of the director, Bieito Rabido. Immediately after that, they stopped publishing us, without explanations to neither the readers nor us.

May I mention that the “Voice of Galician” found home in Spain, from a tendency which was common in France: Serge July, well known promoter of the “French 68” and founder and director of the newspaper “Liberation” was exposed to be laid off, due to ideological differences between him and the major investor, multimillionaire Edouard de Rothschild, principal investor since April of 2005, as well as Alain Genestar, director of the Paris-Match, who got penalized for having published a cover in which a picture of Cecilia Sarkozy appears with her back-then lover. Cecilia is the granddaughter of compositor Isaac Albeniz, who also happens to be the wife of the Minister of Interior, close friend of Arnaud Lagardere, owner of the magazine.

And is this way, in which along with the advancement of capitalism towards neoliberalism, we witness a simultaneous progression, parallel to the media. This is the only conclusion that I gathered from my personal experience, as well as a satisfaction: according to the latest surveys, the periodical “The Voice of Galician” lost five thousand readers within the last five months. The moral of the story is, people are not idiots, and the monster devours his prey.

When I thought that censorship within the “Voice of Galician” was at his highest insurmountable stage, another newspaper of the so-called free media exceeds my expectations…. I am talking about the “Heraldo de Miami” Spanish version of the “Miami Herald” both papers joint together aggressively against Cuba. It can be found on the Internet, everyday some corruptive critic. Some months ago, it was discovered that the most ruthless and implacable journalist against Cuba, were found within the Department of State in the U.S. Every time they wrote whatever it was, against Cuba, they received a bonus from the government on top of their annual salary. They also collaborate with Radio Marti and TV Marti, both belonging to the state.

There we have some journalists, paid by their boss, and pre-paid by the State, to make up lies, and to propagate their political propaganda.

What measures are being taken by the newspaper director, an American-Cuban, ultra-right winged, and anti-Cuba, by the name of Jesus Diaz?

This man, Mr. Diaz, behaves like a professional, on the right manner, that is, firing dozens of journalists, which supposedly have committed terrible professional mistakes.

At that moment, the system functioned correctly, setting the right example. But let’s remember that every stories have two sides and the other part of the story is different: the pressure imposed by the Cuban-American community was so strong, that the news broadcasters protested. How is it possible that they could fire they defenders of freedom? And even threatened to remove any publicity/advertisement to cause financial damage to the paper…. so that is why two weeks later Jesus Diaz had to resign. The proprietor of the Herald wrote a letter to the Cuban community to apologize, and the prevaricators have been reintegrated to their former positions. They are still there, being a perfect propagandist role models and officials for the Department of State. This is freedom of speech.

:: Ramón Chao (translation by Dariana) ::



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