Thursday, October 4, 2012

Me, fool a Cuban super spy? Nah...

Juan Pablo Roque
There has been a flurry of reaction to the interview I did with former Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque. I haven't waded through all the comments circulating on the Internet, but I'd like to mention a point of fact.
I didn't secretly record any of the conversation, claim the audio recorder was off or try to deceive Roque.
That didn't happen.
Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy
Yet Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy, a former state security agent now working as a journalist and blogger, said today I led Roque to believe that the recorder was off, violating a supposed agreement with Roque.

Alvarado Godoy wrote:
I think Tracey Eaton particularly lacked honor as a journalist for leaking part of the conversation that JP (Juan Pablo) thought be OFF and deliver an América TeVe program moderated by the anti-Cuban Oscar Haza. But it is all part of the dirty and rough ideological war against Cuba. About that, there is not the slightest of doubts.
It's true there's an ideological war over Cuba. It's also true I sent the interview to América TeVe. I first pitched the story to a big national newspaper. But that paper declined the piece, saying it might not appeal to a wide audience. That led me to look toward South Florida and América TeVe.
América TeVe has been featuring the interview this week on its "A Mano Limpia" program. On Oct. 2, while introducing the second part of the interview, Haza told his audience that Roque had asked that I turn off the camera after the first part of the interview.
That's accurate. Roque did not want the entire interview videotaped and I honored that. I only recorded the first part, then turned off the camera.
Maybe Alvarado, who was known as Agent Frayle while working for Cuban state security, misunderstood Haza, thinking that turning off the camera would lead Roque to believe the sound was off.
My Canon DSLR
My H4n recorder
But I wasn't relying on my main camera for sound because DSLRs are notorious for poor audio. Instead, I recorded audio of our entire conversation on a Zoom H4n recorder that sat in the open and remained attached to a lav microphone on Roque's shirt.
Roque never asked that any of the recordings - video or audio - be considered off the record. In that spirit, I've used the entire taped conversation in my reporting.
Pardon me for going on at length about this, but it's important to me that everyone know that I honor my word on the terms of interviews.
If there's a misunderstanding or miscommunication, that's one thing. But I work hard to honor the terms of interviews on both sides of the Florida Straits. I'm interested in covering Cuba over the long haul.
I certainly have no interest in causing harm to anyone, including Roque.
I don't agree with some of the characterizations of Roque that I've seen and I've written about that. Two examples:

  • Some people have jumped to the conclusion that Roque has a drinking problem based on a stolen home video showing him drinking. I didn't get that idea at all. Roque impressed me as someone who exercises religiously and cares about his health.
  • Some critics say Roque's interest in selling his prized Rolex and his home mean that he is desperate and poor. I didn't characterize it that way. I said he needs money. I think that's accurate. Who doesn't need money in Cuba? Almost everyone is strapped for resources. And Roque's financial straits aren't unusual. He's retired and gets a pension - and government pensions are meager for all Cuban retirees, less than $20 per month.

I care about fairness and accuracy. In fact, I sent Alvarado an email after my Roque story came out asking if he could send me his impressions. I thought Roque's critics were piling on and another point of view would help give the coverage more balance. Alvarado didn't respond to my email.
I've been covering Cuba on and off since 1994. Many people in both Miami and Havana talk to me, despite their deep differences. I think that's because they know I will try to report what they say faithfully. I care a lot more about accuracy and fairness than a few fleeting headlines.


Laz Red said...

everyone knows the agent fraile and he is looking for the hair in the flea ass but as oscar haza express it is suitable for the confusion

Tracey Eaton said...

yeah, maybe the way Haza said it made it sound like I was secretly recording Roque, which didn't happen.