Is the Western media biased against Fidel?

Miriam who took part in our programme on Fidel Castro complained after the show that I wasn’t neutral and was anti-Castro. Rabin in Kathmandu said much the same in an email.

‘You were constantly trying to imply that Castro is not a hero or worse Castro is a bad ruler. I don’t think that’s what we call neutrality,’ is some of what she said.

My friend Ollie works at Channel 4’s current affairs department and very loyally subscribes to he WHYS Daily Email. He’s just sent me a link which shows his colleague Krishnan Guru-Murthy also receiving accusations of bias. Here’s the Channel 4 interview with British MP George Galloway.

Do you think the media has been biased in its coverage of Fidel Castro’s announcement?

This is Rabin’s email in full and the reply I’ve posted on the original debate.

Hi Ros,
I listened to the yesterday’s programme about Fidel Castro. I am not in the position to judge Castro, because I don’t know how is it like inside Cuba and also because I don’t know the history much about how Cuba was like before him and what are the changes brought about by him.
I am writing this mail just to comment on your presentation in yesterday’s programme. Although you say a lot of times that neutrality is what you feel proud about there at BBC, I didn’t feel the same, at least in that particular programme. You were constantly trying to imply that Castro is not a hero or worse Castro is a bad ruler. I don’t think that’s what we call neutrality.
Okay, I understand that you were trying to stir up a debate. But if that was the case why didn’t you ask ‘What do you say about the positive changes he’s brought to Cuba?’, when the callers were saying that Castro is just another ‘brutal dictator’. You were raising doubts only when the callers were saying good things about Castro.

Rabin Karki
Kathmandu, Nepal

My reply:

Hi Rabin. You’re right that I asked more questions that were critical of Fidel Castro for the simple reason that the the majority of people on the show were to a lesser or greater extent pro-Castro and were putting that line of argument very strongly. On the flip-side, when those who were against him came on air I often had no need to challenge them as two of our main guests were doing just that. I think the end result was that our programme was balanced.

15 Responses to “Is the Western media biased against Fidel?”

  1. 1 Mohammed Ali
    February 21, 2008 at 13:35

    The western media is bias because its governments do not like Fidel, sao everything he does is terrible in their view. Western governments and their media need to change their attitude towards others they see as non-democratic.

  2. 2 steve
    February 21, 2008 at 13:43

    Sounds like for your socialist listeners, that anything other than positive isn’t neutral to them. Time to act like adults now, and not throw a hissy fit if your “hero” is portrayed like the dictator for almost life that he is. And yes, the guests were pretty much overwhelmingly pro-castro, and it was comical to listen to them selectively answer questions or just accuse people of lying.

  3. 3 Xie_Ming
    February 21, 2008 at 14:15

    If elections were held, do you think that Fidel would win?

    Fifty years of boycott and assassination attempts have not made his program easier.

    It is hard to grasp, but there is a different way of looking at the World and government:

    Ask the question: does this advance or reduce the happiness of the greater number?

    It is hard for anybody o step out of his personal vision of reality, but the listeners will help that transformation!

  4. 4 Ros Atkins
    February 21, 2008 at 14:53

    Hi Precious Aras : I listened to the whole Castro’s show. And as always the crucial problem is the LACK OF ENOUGH TIME. You guys only have one hour. And the Castro’s issue is surely a very big one with so many points to discuss and talk about. But the official time of WHYS is only 1 hour. So sadly again there’s nothing that we can do about that. I’m 100% sure that the only reason that makes you interrupt any guest in any show is the lack of time. Objectivity and neutrality are two of the main things that define the pathway of the WHYS programme and the BBC World Service in general. You’re the best Aras ! With my love ! Yours forever, Lubna in BAGHDAD

  5. 5 carlos King
    February 21, 2008 at 14:58

    Good day All,

    Not all Western media is biased against Fidel but the majority are and rightly so.

    No man should be allowed to ascribed that amount of power unto himself. Power corrupts and ultimate corrupts ultimately. It is no surprise that amonst the most corrupts regimes in history are communist states. Where freedom of speech and action do not exist, corruption thrives.

    If the level of corruption in free societies such as USA, Britian, Canada etc. is unacceptable just imagine what is taking place in closed societies.

    The solution to the world’s problem is bible based Christianity and democracy in both these areas Cuba and Castro has been found wanting and therefore history will judge him harshly.

  6. 6 ZK
    February 21, 2008 at 15:00

    I listened to the show on the podcast. It is my opinion that your guest Miriam tried to take over the show and run it as she wanted, to become a pro-Castro farce. Let me take this opportunity to applaud you for keeping her in check and keeping the programme TRULY neutral instead of becoming a Castro lovefest.

  7. 7 ZK
    February 21, 2008 at 15:21


    “‘You were constantly trying to imply that Castro is not a hero or worse Castro is a bad ruler. I don’t think that’s what we call neutrality,’ is some of what she said.”

    Surely that’s subjective. “or worse, Castro is a bad ruler”? People who really think he’s a bad ruler might just find your supposed implied anti-Castro bias was too pro-Castro. Ms Miriam really needs a reality check, and I say this as someone who feels Castro was both good and bad.

  8. 8 Brett
    February 21, 2008 at 15:53

    “Sounds like for your socialist listeners, that anything other than positive isn’t neutral to them. Time to act like adults now, and not throw a hissy fit if your “hero” is portrayed like the dictator for almost life that he is”

    Ah yes McCarthy; Please reference your many rants, or “hissy-fits” if you will, about people not going along with “Booooosh”.

    As far as the Western media being biased against Cuba and Castro. They most certainly are, and I think it is important that they are. Cuba has alot going for it, but also has quite a few issues that need to be addressed. Media scrutiny is a good thing to help change and fix some of the issues going on in Cuba. Just as media scrutiny is healthy for the US and Bush’s regime.
    There were plenty of pro-Castros on the show yesterday and I feel it did provide a balanced debate. The pro-Castros seemed to do a bit more talking than the anti-Castros which aided in the continuous questioning of the pro-Castro camp.
    So long as the bias does not hamper all ideas or facts or truths from getting through, in order for the audience to form their own opinions, I think that the bias against Cuba is, and was on the program, not that bad.
    It would have been poor taste to have a whole program dedicated to Castro-bashing or the like.

    It was dissapointing to not touch on the highlights of Cuba’s accomplishments under Castro (whether a direct doing of Castro or not) such as the healthcare, energy policy, etc. It was nice to hear the defender of the arts in Cuba speak.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  9. 9 Ros Atkins
    February 21, 2008 at 16:09

    Brett several people did mentioned healthcare and educations during the programme. It would have been impossible to listen to that WHYS and not know that some people argue that his achievements in those areas are considerable.

  10. 10 Brett
    February 21, 2008 at 16:17

    My apologies, I must have had the volume down and taking a call. I’ll have to grab the podcast so I can catch the few patches I missed.


    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  11. 11 George USA
    February 21, 2008 at 19:57

    The media has been far too neutral.

    The email you received admitted he did not know the history of the Castro dictatorship.

    There has been far too neutral coverage, probably because everyone is eager to put Castro behind them now and open travel and trade with Cuba resume.

    Anyone who thinks Castro a hero or good dictator needs to read about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Castro very nearly caused a nuclear war. After the end of the USSR, the documents of the communications showed Castro communicated it better to Nuke the USA, destroy Cuba, and start WWIII than himself lose power. His eagerness to start WWIII with full nuclear exchange and to total destruction of Cuba made even the Russians back off from him.

    Also read the history of the exportation of death and destruction from Cuba through Latin America and the Caribbean from the time Castro gained power to recently.

    El Salvador alone, among many others, was a blood drenched communist manipulated revolution that scared that nation as well as killed many people. One man I met showed me scars of wounds he sustained in the battle of the University in San Salvador. He explained his parents were killed, then he was raised in an orphanage, where he was used as a propaganda tool, raised into the Communist ideal youth, then sent to fight where he almost lost his life. He was a electricians helper in North Carolina and shook his head saying he had been used by the communists for their purposes and almost died, he had only disgust for what the Cuban communists and and those in El Salvador did to people with their propaganda. His goal now is to get an electrician license and start his on business.

    As far as the health care trumpeted by Castro supporters-

    The University of Havana was a fine medical school and center before Castro.

    The much publicized elimination of TB Cuba claimed was untrue.
    Following the Boat lift, in which Castro sent criminals from the prison to Florida, these people were not as healthy as the propaganda claimed. I was in a jail clinic when one of these recent arrivals was brought in.
    He had a galloping case of TB, exactly what Cuba claimed to have eliminated.

    There was a number of children who went blind in Cuba for lack of simple vitamin A in their diet.
    Claiming health care is great in Castro’s Cuba requires greater belief and faith and to a degree blindness mentally than the Big Foote hunters.

    Good doctors do not make a good health care system alone.

    No. There has been a total free ride so far of the reports I have seen with nothing of the death, destruction and suffering caused by not only the government of Cuba in the last 50 years but the man himself.

    He is just an old man who did a great deal of evil in his life, more evil than most men are in a position to do, now he is waiting to die, and hopefully Cuba will heal from that dictatorship with travel and trade again to and from the USA.

    Castro is not worth fighting over. Cuba needs to recover and open up.

    But do not attempt to overlook what that man has done.

  12. 12 Jose Marino (Canada)
    February 21, 2008 at 22:21

    Fidel is an egocentric person. He enjoys contradiction.

    That is is nature. So, there he was in the middle of the Cold War able to do every little thing that the Soviets could not do. I guess that one of the biggest thing that he has ever done was to convince the Soviet leadership to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba which brought the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation.

    I do not think today that he completely understood at the time what he was really doing. He just needed to confront the US, therefore he made a laud statement. In the 60s Fidel started to export his revolution, and the revolutionary violence of Che Guevara to the rest of the world including Africa and South America

    Every time he said or did something he did not have to measure his words because he had the blessing from the Soviets. Furthermore, one of the accords between the US and the Soviets was that Cuba was not to be touched after the end of the Cuban missile crisis.

    The man could say anything he wanted! That turned him into a “hero” for the underdog. Any word he said made it to the news papers because it was confrontational against the US and people could not avoid making the comparison between him vs the US and David vs Goliath. This reality show was too good to miss! The concept sales!

    I do not think that the media is bias against him. There were some good things in Cuba such as health care and education… free? yes, top quality? He has his critics, but every one knows about these and is through the media.

    But folks, Cuban education and Health care was among the best in Latin America before Castro pushed Batista out!

  13. 13 Joey
    February 21, 2008 at 23:46


    I am qualified to answer the question, I listen…
    To solve this problem, just have people send in an email after the show, with there thoughts, yes bias, no bias, maybe bias. Simple.

    I’m sure you would get at least 20 people to respond, and then if everyone says your bias, tough luck bud.

    It seems that Ros and the team are consistent day in and day out to me. Luv you guys, and maybe you could keep track of stats too mates! Were all trying to help each other understand here, if you don’t like to listen, don’t listen, instead of saying, this sucks, but I’m interested none the less.
    So for stats, just something in the daily email like, on yesterdays show 20 people from America chimed in, 50 people from Africa, and 1 person from India or whatever.

    Colorado – West of the mississippi, USA

  14. 14 John P.
    February 24, 2008 at 09:07

    The constant distortion of the Cuban situation by western media does not exclude the BBC. People claim that Castro is a dictator while ignoring the many dictatorships or faux democracies in Latin America that are aligned with the US. In the media we constantly hear how Cuba has political prisoners while ignoring the absolute fact that the US imprisons a far greater percentage of its population than any other country on earth.

    The “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” in america does nothing for those without stable access to food, housing and medical care. People die in US medical clinics while doctors are refusing them care. If that happened in Cuba US media would shout it to the heavens. In US aligned Latin America medical care is strictly dependent upon ability to pay. In Cuba health outcomes are as good as they are in the US on average and far better than the poor in the US recieve.

    Cuba feeds it’s population despite US imposed ecconomic sanctions and significantly now does it with far lesss greenhouse gas emissions per capita than any comparable country. There are no homeless that I know of in Cuba and no starvation. How many other Caribean nations can claim that?

    Whenever we hear about Cuba on the radio there are never acknowledgements that the average Cuban has it better than the average Jamaican or Haitian. Certainly they have it better than the average citizen of Guatamala or Honduras or El Salvador where US dollars funded death squads that killed political opposition. Better than Colombia where union leaders are killed by corporate funded assasins. After all, Cuba just imprisons it’s political opposition.

  15. 15 Dennis
    May 11, 2008 at 20:58

    some western media organisations are biased against fidel…..

    dennis~madrid, u.s.a.

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