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Cuba23 February 2007

Two Havana-based foreign correspondents ordered to leave

Reporters Without Borders today condemned Cuba’s decision yesterday not to renew the visas of Gary Marx, the US correspondent of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, and Cesar Gonzáles-Calero, the Spanish correspondent of the Mexico-City based El Universal newspaper. Their accreditation has been withdrawn and they have been told to leave the country. At the same time, BBC correspondent Stephen Gibbs was refused an entry visa yesterday.

“When the Cuban authorities are not cracking down on Cuba’s independent journalists, they target foreign correspondents,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The reasons for these expulsions are clear. The Cuban regime is hard put to understand that the press is not a propaganda tool. It should realise the foreign media is not there to please any government, any more than Cuba’s own media should be.”

Marx, who has been in Cuba since 2002, was told his reporting was “too negative.” The authorities said he had been in the country “long enough” and gave him 90 days to leave with his family. Marx said he had anyway been planning to leave Cuba in mid-June when his children, aged 8 and 10, finished the school year. He is one of the very few US journalists to be allowed to reside in Havana. The authorities have nonetheless indicated they would considered a request for accreditation from another Chicago Tribune reporter.

Gonzáles-Calero, who has been in Cuba since April 2003, said: “Their explanation was that my coverage of the Cuban situation was not convenient for the Cuban government.” The authorities told him to stop reporting on 28 February. El Universal vice-president Roberto Rock said the newspaper would lodge an official complaint with the Cuban government.

Seven foreign journalists were turned back on arrival in Cuba last year and an eighth was expelled.

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