Letters & Opinion

New ‘Operation Truth’ launched ‘From Cuba to the World’

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Havana, February 1, 2024:  Prensa Latina (PL), the Cuban news agency, has launched a new mission for an international commitment by journalists and media houses to reporting and transmitting truth to global audiences.

PL President Luis Enrique Gonzales and his colleagues are brimming with hopes for a full and fresh start in 2024, after hosting delegations from news agencies and other international media houses,  from  over 30 nations,  January 22 to 24, to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of Operation Truth, a special information mission launched by Commander Fidel Castro in January 1959.

The 1959 mission was to take the truth of the revolution to the world, through the mouth of its leader and to the international press, about the factors behind the triumph of the headline-making revolution that had triumphed just days earlier on January 1.

Launched within days of the arrival of the nine-day caravan that brought Fidel and other top rebel leaders from Santiago to Havana City, the unprecedented event had a  gathering of over 400 journalists from international media and news agencies.

Covering the revolution from afar, most international correspondents had understandable misgivings  and the revolution’s leaders felt needed clarification, correction and certification.

The first internationally-televised speech by Dr Castro after the victory of the popular July 26 Movement’s (M-26) combatants over the US-backed army of dictator Fulgencio Batista, held at Havana’s Riviera Hotel, allowed the international press their first direct and open Question and Answer session with the revolution’s leader.

Castro explained the significance of the cross-country revolutionary cavalcade from Santiago, where, six years earlier on July 26, 1953, a heroic but failed attack on the army’s Moncada Barracks led to arrest, torture and deaths in detention, trials, imprisonment of revolutionaries and later exile for him and others to Mexico.

In his lengthy and detailed self-defense trial speech  entitled ‘History Will Absolve Me’ – Dr Castro – also a lawyer had earlier outlined why the attack by less-armed combatants on the nation’s second-largest fortified army barracks was carried out.

Before the revolution’s January 1, 1959 triumph, the rebel leader had also earlier explained, through an interview in the Sierra Maestra mountains with New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews, how and why the exiled fighters left Mexico for Cuba on the ‘Granma’ yacht in December 1956, to start the tough guerrilla battles that led to the triumphant cavalcade.

The charismatic leader’s direct broadcast to the then global public square urged the gathered international correspondents to take the truths they saw in Cuba and heard from affected citizens, to their readers, viewers and listeners.

That was Cuba’s first effort to shape world public opinion about the revolution through truthful reporting.

The event revealed, with evidence, the costly human, material, economic and social consequences of the long reign of terror under Batista, including the largely-hidden but very-high numbers of innocent lives snuffed-out by the dictatorship’s army, for either opposing the regime or supporting the revolutionaries.

PL was born out of that mission and immediately tasked to constantly supply the international press with and also spread the truths everywhere possible about both the dictatorship’s actions and the resulting reactions.

Sixty-five years later, PL invited international, regional and national media houses, especially from developing nations, for the retrospective and forward glances at the historicity of that event.

Under the theme ‘New Operation Truth – From Cuba to the World’, dozens of delegations representing national, regional and international media houses from  30 nations and states, examined the success of the January 1959 event, within the context of today’s global media realities.

Rewinding and fast-forwarding over two days, they looked back, ahead and forward, against the background of the many contemporary challenges in gathering and dissemination of news in the age of Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality.

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz Canel, PL President Gonzales and President of the Pan-Arab TV channel Al Mayadeen Ghassan Ben Jeddou, offered welcome and contextual remarks ahead of a documentary film on the 1959 operation.

Lebanon’s Information Minister Ziad Makary, former Belize Foreign Affairs Minister Godfrey Smith, CEO of Russia’s Sputnik Dmitry Ushakov and Media Coordinator of Nicaragua’s Communication and Citizenship Council, Daniel Edmundo Ortega Murillo also delivered messages and remarks.

Three panel discussions placed the original Operation Truth mission in the context of 21st Century challenges to reporting truth and truthfully on world events that matter to the population of Planet Earth.

The first was on ‘The News in Times of Internet, Social Media and Fake News – A Multidimensional Approach’ and presenters included Casa de Las Americas President (and former Cuba Culture Minister) Abel Prieto, who spoke on ‘Facing Fake News – A Look from Culture’.

Belize’s former Foreign Minister Godfrey Smith spoke on ‘Cultural Colonialism’, while veteran American journalist David Montgomery (formerly of the Washington Post) also offered his perspectives.

The second panel was on ‘News Agencies in the Era of Hypermedia: From Wire News to Multimedia News’ and presenters included the PL President, Liberation News Editor Walter Smoralek and Director of the International Cooperation Department of TV BRICS, Daria Ivankova.

The third panel on ‘New World Information Order – Pending Challenges in the 21st Century’ heard presentations by Director of Portugal’s Avante newspaper Manuel Rodrigues, Latin American Advisor to Al Mayadeen Wafica Ibrahim and President & CEO of the US-based Hispanic-American Press Congress, Dr Amin Cruz.

The event ended with general acceptance of a new permanent global truth mission for journalists and media agencies everywhere, especially against the background of the killing of over 117 journalists in 100 days for bringing the truth to the world about Israel’s war on Gaza.

The PL President and invited guests left the event agreeing to the need for a new global truth mission, in 2024 and beyond.

Delegates attended from: Algeria, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lebanon, Mexico, Panama, Palestine, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Spain, Saharawi Republic, Tunisia, UK, USA and Venezuela.

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