Accuracy in Media

Cuba confirmed its first coronavirus cases and NBC News reported on the various factors affecting the country’s response to the virus’s spread, but neglected to specify how their centralized economy affected supply shortages.

NBC News headlined the issue, “Cuba confirms first coronavirus cases, tells people to make their own masks.” Three of four Italian tourists tested positive for the coronavirus and Cuban authorities are verifying who they came in contact with, but in the meantime, the Cuban government told its people to make their own protective masks.

NBC News reported that the Cuban communist government told citizens to make masks at home “using material like cotton, cloth, linen.” It also noted that medical masks “are not usually available for sale to the general population in Cuba,” a stark contrast to residents in other countries who could go to local pharmacies and stores to stock up on these supplies.

The news outlet cited government supporters and wrote, “Supporters of Cuba’s centralized economy say it allows the government to effectively divert resources toward priorities in times of crisis, while its focus on preventive healthcare helps it contain disease outbreaks.” It added that Cuba is “strapped for cash, partly due to a hike in U.S. sanctions” and also faces shortages “of basic goods, including medicines, not to mention supplies needed to fight off coronavirus.”

In other words, NBC News repeated Cuban government supporters’ claim that the U.S. embargo is limiting their coronavirus response. But, at the same time, the news outlet admitted that Cuba’s centralized economy is running into problems supplying its people with the necessary supplies to combat the coronavirus. NBC News should have said that Cuba’s centralized economy is failing because the government is misallocating resources to produce goods that consumers may not want or need. It did not directly link the supply shortages to the practice of communism and a centralized economy.

It should have noted that free-market economies give consumers the freedom to determine supply and demand and therefore, consumers get the items that they need and want.

NBC News should have done a better job in providing context about the Cuban government’s struggles in terms of free-market versus centralized economies, instead of relying on Cuban government supporters to form the main argument of the article.

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