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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Melissa Block.
It has been two weeks since the Miami Herald fired three reporters from its Spanish language affiliate El Nuevo Herald for taking pay from the U.S. government. And since then, the paper's been busy trying to explain its actions to the Cuban-American community. The reporters were paid to appear on U.S.-funded broadcasts to Cuba. The Herald ran an editorial defending the firings. Then this past Sunday, it took the unusual step of printing on its front page a letter from its publisher.
But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, that's done little to cool the anger in South Florida's Cuban-American community.
GREG ALLEN: On Spanish language radio and letters to the editor and on the Internet, the outcry against the Miami Herald from Cuban Americans has been loud and unrelenting.
Ms. NINOSKA PEREZ (Radio Mambi): This is an issues that of course is very upsetting to many Cubans.
ALLEN: Ninoska Perez is well-known in Miami, hosting a daily talk show on the Spanish language station Radio Mambi. She's also one of 10 people names in an article earlier this month that identified journalists and commentators who were paid by the U.S. government for their appearances on Radio and TV Marti. The Herald fired three of its reporters who were named in the article, saying it's a matter of journalistic ethics. But Perez that's not how it appeared to many Cuban Americans.
Ms. PEREZ: It's like an attempt to silence voices that have been out there denouncing the human rights violations in Cuba. We have been denouncing the abuses of Castro's regime.
ALLEN: The Miami Herald's Spanish language affiliate reports that since the firings, the paper has been inundated with letters from angry readers, also that more than 1,200 readers have cancelled their subscriptions to the two papers. Herald vice president Robert Beatty called that number insignificant when judged against the paper's combined daily circulation of 380,000.
Mr. ROBERT BEATTY (Vice President, Miami Herald): The vast majority of the community, we believe however, is totally supportive of what the Herald did and how the Herald handled that particular matter and will continue, we presume, in that support.
ALLEN: But last week, in an attempt to address the anger, the Herald's editors tried to explain their position. In an editorial, the paper said, quote, "it is plain wrong to infer that the Miami Herald would intentionally try to help the dictator in Cuba."
Mr. HUMBERTO FONTOVA (Cuban American Author and Columnist): There's something going on between the Miami Herald hierarchy and the hierarchy of the Cuban regime.
Conservative Cuban American author and columnist Humberto Fontova says many think the article and the firing of the journalists is connected with efforts by the Miami Herald to open a news bureau in Havana. Herald vice president Robert Beatty says that's simply not the case.
Mr. BEATTY: The Herald has not been, is not now, nor does it foresee that we will be in negotiations with the government of Cuba to have a bureau or any other facility there on the island.
ALLEN: But many Cuban Americans remain unconvinced. Humberto Fontova points to what many consider a smoking gun, a roundtable discussion on government TV in Cuba that seemed to anticipate the Herald action. It was on a show watched by many in Miamim Mesa Redonda.
Mr. FONTOVA: And they were talking about Cuban American journalists in the U.S. being on the payroll of the Bush administration and how some of them were going to recently lose their job. Wouldn't you know, exactly two weeks later that's what happened. How would they have known about this?
ALLEN: Beatty says Herald management wishes it knew how Mesa Redonda knew about the story before it was published, but that the information didn't come from within the paper.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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