Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cuba boots foreign journalists

Cuba boots foreign journalists
published: Monday | February 26, 2007

Cuban press authorities have told the Havana correspondents for the
Chicago Tribune, the BBC and a major Mexican newspaper that they can no
longer report from the island.

The Chicago Tribune said correspondent Gary Marx, based in the country
since 2002, was told on Wednesday that his stories were too negative.
His press credentials were not renewed during an annual process, and he
and his family were given 90 days to leave Cuba, the newspaper said.

The Mexican newspaper El Universal said Cesar Gonzalez Calero, its
Havana reporter since 2003, was told this week his credentials would not
be renewed. Authorities told him his reporting was "not the most
convenient for the Cuban Government," the reporter said, adding he would
be allowed to remain in Cuba as the husband of a Spanish journalist.

The British Broadcasting Corporation was (BBC) "talking to the
authorities in Havana about the status of its Cuba correspondent after
his accreditation was withdrawn," spokeswoman Karen Rosine said Friday
in a statement from London. Without naming correspondent Stephen Gibbs,
Rosine said he "remains in Cuba, pending the outcome of these discussions."

Correspondents' status

Jose Luis Ponce, director of Cuba's International Press Center, said
Friday that the Government would have no immediate comment on the
correspondents' status.

Havana in recent years has grown increasingly sensitive about how the
international media portrays the communist-run nation. It is especially
touchy about reports distributed in the United States and their possible
impact on U.S. public opinion amid efforts by Washington to tighten more
than four decades of travel and trade restrictions. And officials have
been enraged by speculation in the foreign press about the health of
Fidel Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul after
undergoing intestinal surgery last July.

The Government - like many around the world - has long used the annual
reaccreditation process to review the work of international journalists.
The latest regulations for foreign correspondents, released in December,
state that Cuba can suspend accreditation when journalists undertake
activities it considers inappropriate or display "a lack of journalistic
ethics and/or objectivity in their dispatches."

The Chicago Tribune said Cuban officials were not closingtheir office
and told Marx they would accept an application from another
correspondent. George de Lama, managing editor - news, for the Tribune,
said the paper was "disappointed and concerned" by the action.

Accurate coverage

"Gary Marx is an accomplished, veteran journalist who has consistently
given our readers accurate, incisive and insightful coverage from Cuba,
working under sometimes difficult conditions," de Lama said. "We remain
committed to coverage of Cuba and its people, and we are assessing our
options of how to proceed."

El Universal vice-president, Roberto Rock, called Havana's move a
'technical expulsion' of its reporter and said the newspaper would file
an official protest. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
also expressed concern over the measures.

"We are dismayed by the Cuban Government's decision to effectively ban
two well-respected journalists from doing their jobs by not renewing
their press credentials," said Carlos Lauria, the group's Americas
programme coordinator. "The decision comes in clear reprisal for their
independent reporting. We urge the Cuban Government to review its
decision and allow the journalists to continue reporting from Cuba."

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