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Cuba23 May 2005

Three Polish journalists and two Italian journalists expelled

The three Polish journalists and their Polish translator who were detained in Havana on the night of 19 May after going there to cover a dissident congress arrived home yesterday following their expulsion by the Cuban authorities. They said they were treated well by the authorities in Havana but were never told why they were being expelled.

The three journalists are Seweryn Blumsztaijn of the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Jerzy Jurecki of the regional daily Tygodnik Podhalanski and Wojciech Rogasin of Newsweek Poland, while their interpreter was Maciej Sarna.

Two Italian journalists who were detained in Havana in similar circumstances, Corriere della Sera correspondent Francesco Battistini and La Repubblica correspondent Francesca Caferri, are also now back in Italy after being expelled.

Battistini was detained shortly after arriving in Havana on 20 May and was expelled in less than 24 hours. He was back in Italy on the evening of 21 May. Caferri was arrested by eight policeman in her hotel on the afternoon of 21 May. She arrived back in Italy last night.

All five journalists went to Havana to cover the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba, a meeting of dissident groups. The two Italian journalists did not have press visas and went on tourist visas.

20.05.05 - Authorities detain three Polish journalists who came to cover dissident congress and one Italian

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the arrest last night in Havana of four Polish journalists who had come to cover a congress of dissidents taking place there. A fifth Polish journalist was expelled during the day yesterday and it was expected that those detained last night would suffer the same fate.

"Once again the Cuban authorities are trying to stifle all dissent by violating press freedom in the most crude and brutal fashion," the press freedom organization said. "This time they have targeted foreign journalists, although they had permission to come to Cuba. We firmly condemn these repressive methods and demand the immediate release of the detained journalists."

The four detained last night were Seweryn Blumsztajn of the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Jerzy Jurecki of the regional daily Tygodnik Podhalanski, Wojciech Rogasin of Newsweek Poland and Maciej Sarna, who was acting as their interpreter. They were arrested at their hotel near Havana international airport along with two other persons of Polish nationality.

Meanwhile, Francesco Battistini, the correspondent of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, today told his newspaper in a telephone text message that he had just been picked up by the Cuban police. He will also probably be expelled.

As he was being arrested last night, Jurecki had time to send a telephone text message to the privately-owned Polish television station TVN 24. A member of the TVN 24 staff told Reporters Without Borders the message said: "We are being taken from the hotel to prison. We need help."

Jurecki concealed his mobile phone and managed to make another call from a toilet in the detention centre an hour later, TVN 24 said. "He told us that the group of people who had been arrested would probably be expelled," the station said.

Maciej Stasincki of Gazeta Wyborcza was expelled earlier yesterday. He had also come to cover the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba, a meeting of dissident groups being organized by economist Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello.

A Czech senator and a German parliamentarian who tried to attend the congress with just tourist visas were also expelled, while two Polish members of the European parliament were turned back on their arrival on 17 May. Eighteen European parliamentarians who wanted to attend the congress were refused visas.

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