Reporters Without Borders
ordered to pay 6,000 euros to Korda's heir
over use of Che photo
Without Borders, France,
10 March 2004.
Reporters Without Borders voiced relief
at being ordered today by a Paris court
to pay only 6,000 euros to Diane Diaz Lopez,
the heir of Cuban photographer Alberto "Korda"
Diaz Gutierrez, for non-compliance with
a court order of 9 July 2003 banning it
from using Korda's famous photograph of
Ernesto "Che" Guevara in a beret.
"As Ms. Diaz Lopez had demanded in
excess of one million euros, we think this
ruling is reasonable and that it assigns
an appropriate degree of importance to the
offence," Reporters Without Borders
secretary-general Robert Ménard said.
"The sole aim of Ms. Diaz Lopez's demands
was to stifle our organisation, and the
judge did not play along," he added.
The court said in its ruling that "the
excessive demands made by the plaintiff
appear clearly out of proportion with the
Reporters Without Borders pointed out that
it has repeatedly been the target of hostility
from the Cuban authorities since the arrest
of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Reporters
Without Borders activists were physically
attacked during a demonstration outside
the Cuban embassy in Paris in April 2003,
the organisation was the target of a campaign
of insults in the official press, and Cuba's
representatives called for the withdrawal
of its consultative status with the United
In today's hearing, the Paris higher-level
court was asked to rule on whether Reporters
Without Borders had respected the 9 July
2003 ban on use of Korda's photograph of
Che and to determine what sum that the organisation
had to pay Diaz Lopez. Korda, who is deceased,
lived in Havana.
Reporters Without Borders used Korda's
photograph of Che in a beret in June 2003
for a poster campaign drawing attention
to press freedom violations in Cuba. The
poster was based on the famous May 1968
poster showing a riot policeman with a baton
in one hand and a shield in the other. Che's
face, taken from Korda's photograph, was
superimposed on the policemen's face. The
slogan for the campaign, which was to have
run from 8 to 22 July, was : "Welcome
to Cuba, the world's biggest prison for
Diaz Lopez filed a lawsuit in Paris on
3 July 2003 calling for Reporters Without
Borders to be banned from using the photograph.
The Paris higher-level court issued a summary
judgment on 9 July banning the organisation
from "reproducing or disseminating
[the disputed image] in whatsoever form,"
and ordering the "removal and withdrawal
of all products already existing."
The judge set a penalty payment of 200 euros
for every confirmed failure to comply.
Reporters Without Borders immediately withdraw
the images from its website, and cancelled
and stopped all dissemination of the 1,100
posters and 5,000 postcards that had been
produced for the campaign. The organisation
also issued a press release about the ban.
Diaz Lopez's subsequent court petition
was prompted by the broadcast on 1 October
2003 of an interview with Reporters Without
Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard
on LCI television's programme "Première
séance" about the release of
the film "Veronica Guerin." During
the interview, which took place at Reporters
Without Borders headquarters, the Cuba campaign
poster could be seen in the background on
the wall of Ménard's office.
As a result of the broadcast, a court bailiff
came to Reporters Without Borders headquarters
on 12 December to see if the organisation
still had copies of the poster, although
the 9 July court order had only required
the "removal and withdrawal" of
the images, not their destruction.
The bailiff found part of the stock of
campaign posters and postcards, but not
all of them because some had been thrown
out. Diaz Lopez's lawyer alleged that Reporters
Without Borders showed bad faith by not
only keeping the visuals but also continuing
to disseminate them. Korda's heir demanded
1,142,000 euros in penalty payment for non-compliance.
A campaign to draw attention to a totalitarian
The Reporters Without Borders poster campaign
was targeted at the approximately 120,000
French tourists who chose Cuba as a holiday
destination each year, lured by its sun,
its beaches and the myth of a revolution
by bearded guerrillas.
The poster aimed to highlight how the Cuban
revolution's ideology, which still captivates
many tourists, cloaks totalitarian practices
and that the regime uses Che as an icon
to legitimise repression. It was also meant
to show that the myth that caught the imagination
of an entire generation in the 1960s had
turned into something that generation hated
- a police state.
The Cuban government launched a nationwide
crackdown on dissent on 18 March 2003. A
total of 75 dissidents were tried and sentenced
to prison terms of up to 28 years for "undermining
the state's integrity and sovereignty"
or its "independence." They included
27 independent journalists who joined the
four journalists who were already detained.
Cuba thereby became the world's biggest
prison for journalists.
The punishments for journalists who had
challenged the state's monopoly of news
and information did not stop there. They
were transferred to prisons hundreds of
kilometres from their homes, their right
to receive family visits was curtailed and
they had to endure harsh prison conditions.
Reporters Without Borders
defends imprisoned journalists and press
freedom throughout the world, as well as
the right to inform the public and to be
informed, in accordance with Article 19
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Reporters Without Borders has nine national
sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany,
Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the
United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan,
Bangkok, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New
York, Tokyo and Washington and more than
a hundred correspondents worldwide.