- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Herald’s publisher resigned yesterday, saying “ambiguously communicated” personnel policies resulted in the firings of three journalists at its Spanish-language paper who were paid to appear on U.S.-government broadcasts aimed at promoting democracy in Cuba.

Jesus Diaz Jr., the papers’ publisher since July 2005, had dismissed two El Nuevo Herald reporters and a freelance contributor who had been paid by Radio and TV Marti. Mr. Diaz said that the company offered to rehire the three and that it would not discipline six others it recently discovered also took payments.

Mr. Diaz also resigned as president of the Miami Herald Media Co.

“I realize and regret that the events of the past three weeks have created an environment that no longer allows me to lead our newspapers in a manner most beneficial for our newspapers, our readers and our community,” Mr. Diaz wrote in a letter to readers announcing his resignation.

David Landsberg, a longtime Herald employee who served as general manager, took over as company president and publisher of the two newspapers, said the McClatchy Co., the papers’ parent company based in Sacramento, Calif.

Mr. Diaz said he thought the journalists’ acceptance of payments “was a breach of widely accepted principles of journalistic ethics.” But he added, “Our policies prohibiting such behavior may have been ambiguously communicated, inconsistently applied and widely misunderstood over many years in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom.”

He said that no one would be allowed in the future to accept money from the U.S. government-run broadcasters, and that conflict-of-interest policies would be strengthened.

The Miami Herald reported early last month, citing government documents, that 10 South Florida journalists had received thousands of dollars from the federal government for their work on radio and TV programming aimed at undermining Fidel Castro’s communist regime.

Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and wrote an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio and TV Marti, U.S. government programs that promote democracy in Cuba, according to government documents obtained by the Herald.

Olga Connor, a freelance reporter who wrote about Cuban culture for El Nuevo Herald, received about $71,000 from the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting. And staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covered the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the past five years, the Herald reported.

Mr. Cancio Isla called the firings an attack on his journalistic integrity, but said he probably would return to the newspaper.

The dismissals caused a furor among members of Miami’s Cuban-American community, which responded with canceled subscriptions and attacks on Mr. Diaz and some of the newspaper’s editors and journalists in letters and e-mails. Critics also said Mr. Diaz reacted too quickly and harshly.

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