Castro's An Enemy Of A Free Press

Cuban President Fidel Castro salutes during a speech in Havana, Cuba, May 20, 2005.
AP (file)
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

For years, I've been telling journalism students the difference between totalitarian societies and democracies is that in a totalitarian society the only source of news is the government.

In a democracy, a free press provides a second source.

Last week, Fidel Castro provided a splendid example of why having a second source to check against the government's version is a good thing.

The only news about Castro's emergency surgery came from Castro himself, who reported his condition was stable, but added he couldn't say more for national security reasons.

Here's the problem: from the time he came to power in 1959 and gave an exclusive interview to Face the Nation, Castro has shown himself to be an outrageous liar. That day, he promised free elections.

That and everything else he said that day including a denial he was a Communist proved to be a lie and he has been lying ever since.

So who knows if he is even in the hospital? Maybe he went to Disneyworld.

The next time you become exasperated with the "liberal" press or maybe can't stomach another word from Rush Limbaugh, just imagine how it would be if they weren't there and we had only the government version of events.

The press isn't perfect and is sometimes wrong, which is why the off switch on our radio and television is so useful. But when an administration — any administration — tells you tougher controls on the press will make us safer, just remember how we got the news about old Castro.

The more I think of it, he could be at Disneyworld.

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By Bob Schieffer