Jesús Díaz Jr. will resign as publisher of both The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald and will reinstate two reporters who were fired after it was revealed that they had done paid work for Radio Martí and TV Martí — two U.S. government networks that broadcast into Cuba:
In a letter to readers, Díaz said the company is reversing course and will grant ‘’amnesty’’ to two El Nuevo Herald reporters and a freelance contributor who were dismissed Sept. 7 when The Miami Herald reported that they received payments under contracts with Radio Martí and TV Martí.
He also said that an internal probe determined that six other employees of the Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald received payments from Radio Martí and TV Martí during the past five years. No disciplinary action will be taken against them.
None of the nine or anyone else at the company can accept money from the U.S. government-run broadcasters in the future, Díaz said, and conflict-of-interest policies will be strengthened throughout the company.
The internal probe, he said, suggested that the circumstances surrounding the journalists’ actions were less definitive than he and other managers originally believed. That, he said, required a reversal in the company’s response. ’’While I still believe that the acceptance of such payments by the nine journalists was a breach of widely accepted principles of journalistic ethics that violated the trust of our readers, our policies prohibiting such behavior may have been ambiguously communicated, inconsistently applied and widely misunderstood over many years in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom,’’ Díaz wrote.
’’It has been determined that in fairness we should extend an amnesty to all involved and enforce our policies more forcefully and consistently in the future,’’ he wrote.
Four of the six newly identified El Nuevo Herald employees said their activities at Radio Martí and TV Martí — broadcast operations that attempt to undermine the Cuban communist government of Fidel Castro — had been approved by Carlos Castañeda, an executive editor of El Nuevo Herald who died in 2002.
The two employees who already were terminated said some supervisors knew of their work for the government broadcasters, though the two did not recall specifically discussing payments. It could not be determined Monday night if they would accept the invitations to return.
Díaz indicated that he believed the series of events, which have roiled the newsrooms of both newspapers and ignited heated debate in the Cuban-American community, left him in an untenable position.
When this story broke, it was reported that the journalists who worked for Radio Martí and TV Martí failed to inform their editors at the Herald. In my mind, that failure — not the work itself – justified their firing. Now it appears the journalists did inform their editors at the Herald, and fortunately that has led to their rehiring.
Unfortunately, the Herald is prohibiting any of its journalists to work for Radio Martí and TV Martí in the future. As long as editors are informed and the proper disclosures are made, what’s wrong with journalists contracting for U.S. government broadcasters? Are these same journalists prohibited from contracting for the BBC? The Herald has reversed one mistaken course of action. It should not persist in another.