An Accusation of Censorship at Salvadoran Festival
Last month, we posted a translation of an editorial in La Tribuna Hispana that raised questions about the financial oversight of Long Island’s Salvadorian-American Day Festival in Hempstead, and alleged that the festival wastes taxpayer money on police overtime costs.
This month, La Tribuna Hispana accused the festival’s organizers of censorship after one of newspaper’s photojournalists was denied access to a VIP photographer’s area in front of the main stage at the festival on Aug. 5.
Here’s a translation of what the Spanish-language publication had to say about the incident:
Why the censorship of the LTH photojournalist? Common sense suggests that, obviously, it was the article published in our weekly. But on the other hand, [the organizers] were in the right: it was their private party. Still it is clear that, despite everything, this was a press censorship.
The problem, La Tribuna Hispana argued, is that taxpayer money — in the form of police overtime security — was spent on a festival that was run as a private event.
The article obviously left a bad taste in the mouths of the organizers — and to be clear, the article was not against the festivities, but rather an exposé of how the organizers have used the festival: to fund a private deal with public money. And we call it private because only at a private affairs do organizers have the right to invite or exclude whomever they please. And that was the case with our photojournalist who they barred from entry for the first time in four years…
Reached by Voices of NY, Nelson Hernández, president of Entrepreneurs for Change, one of the groups responsible for organizing the event, said barring the photographer was not censorship. He said the festival set up an advertising tie-in agreement with several media outlets, including El Diario, and that Tribuna Hispana, which prides itself on being an independent newspaper, chose not to take part.
“We are not censoring the media,” Hernández said. “We called them to participate and they didn’t participate.”
When asked about the use of public funds to help pay for an event with a VIP area, Hérnandez said that decision was up to the festival’s organizers.
“We reserve the right to let whoever we want to into the VIP,” he said.
The Village of Hempstead spent $24,682 on police overtime for the event, said a representative for the mayor’s office.