OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Photo: Granma

There has been a longstanding controversy about freedom of the press.

The very word "freedom," which should be venerated and placed on a pedestal, has been soiled and become part of the game plan of political and economic interests, always evoked in accordance with the circumstances and imperatives of the powerful.

It is precisely these powerful interests who use this freedom only to express what they want.

This is what has happened with freedom of the press, which this past May 3 was honored with its own commemorative day.

I ask myself: Is a celebration, or the designation of such a day, deserved? A special day for a liberty in the name of which the most vile media practices - accompanying wars, invasions, the overthrow of progressive governments - are protected?

Who, and what, are being celebrated? The right of media powers to take the side of those who pay them? Or the rights (yet to be won) of those who see the press as a means of communication and information, at the service of majorities ignored by the powerful corporate media?

I believe the UNESCO initiative designating May 3 as World Press Freedom Day is commendable, and should be more than rhetoric from those who around the world dominate the core of communications, who accept the festivities without noting their content. Activities prepared for the day have featured slogans such as, "Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies."

This time the UNESCO convocation called on communication media to contain the discourse of hate and violent extremism.

I will pause to reflect on an issue that gives this commentary its title: fake news.

When we hear or read about all the lies hidden by the corporate media within the phrase "freedom of the press," it is clear how harmful the press becomes when it is aligned with, and paid by, those who seek to use it maliciously.

I recall the fake news created by former U.S. President George W. Bush, to justify his invasion and occupation of Iraq.

At that time, the issue was the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in the Arab nation, a bald-faced lie Bush was obliged to recognize a month later, while offering as an excuse for his criminal action the false reports of U.S. intelligence agencies. It was already too late. Casualties suffered by the Iraqi population reached thousands, and the country was left destroyed, as if hit by a nuclear bomb.

What happened next is that the big-business U.S. and western press jumped on this fake news cited by Bush, and the entire world was treated to an undisguised media campaign which fell over the Iraqi reality, like the bombs and soldiers.

The meaning of freedom of press, according to U.S. interests, was thus revealed in all its dimensions.

In a more recent example, the current administration launched 59 missiles against Syria, using the argument that the country's government had used chemical weapons in its war against terrorism.

The story was another example of fake news, a well manufactured one which even Trump believed was impossible to ignore. But since 2014, Syria has had no chemical weapons, and according to recent investigations by a United Nations team, no chemical weapons exist within the Syrian army.

However, the damage had already been done, and the falsity of the story was never acknowledged by those who spread it, with an impact in the media made possible by the modern technology used, making the alleged attack appear very real.

The truth? What the world's population knows is what was disseminated in millions of media messages, which took as a given the existence of chemical weapons, and justified the U.S. missile attacks.

Amidst the media's escalating warmongering, Washington attempted to find a credible formula to justify a foreign intervention in Venezuela.

With a local press at the service of the worst foreign interests and the national Venezuelan oligarchy, such false news stories have been circulated, creating confusion within the population and an international environment hostile to the Bolivarian Revolution, via street violence, terrorist acts that have cost the lives of dozens of civilians, and other criminal actions like setting a pediatric hospital on fire.

The shameful actions of the corporate media in Venezuela and the United States, as well as some European and South American countries, were moreover aided by the indecorous Organization of American States and its latest head, Luis Almagro, who have given their all to overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro, regardless of the number of people who lose their lives in vandalistic acts like those currently occurring.

Today Venezuela is the victim of this "freedom of the press," in the name of which - and for millions of dollars - the Maduro government is demonized, even as it moves forward with plans like those of its Housing Mission, which has just provided 1.6 million homes to the poorest among Venezuelan families, and takes steps to guarantee free quality healthcare programs for its entire population.

If our world is real - which I even doubt sometimes - a day like this one honoring freedom of the press must serve as a brake on those large media outlets aligned with terror and mercenary lies, which charge huge sums of money to create and disseminate fake news in countries subjected to more cruel aggression.

The press and those of us who work in journalism deserve a day, many days, but only if we exercise the profession with strict adherence to the truth, and ethical reporting as a basic premise.

Freedom of the press cannot enjoy its own special day as long as those who use it in the service of imperial powers receive millions to mount perverse campaigns hidden behind fake news.