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Cuba3 October 2008

US finally issues visas to Prensa Latina’s two UN correspondents

The US State Department announced yesterday that it would after all issue US entry visas to the two New York-based Cuban journalists - Tomás Granados Jiménez and Ilsa Rodríguez Santana - who were initially refused visas when they tried to return to the United States after a holiday in Cuba.

The US government never explained the reasons for its decision to refuse them visas, not even after changing its mind. Granados and Rodríguez are accredited UN correspondents for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina.

30.09.08 - Two Cuban journalists with UN accreditation denied visas to reenter the United States

Reporters Without Borders calls on the office of the UN secretary-general to intercede on behalf of husband-and-wife journalists Tomás Granados Jiménez and Ilsa Rodríguez Santana - both UN correspondents for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina - who were refused visas to reenter the United States after a short holiday in Cuba.

Based in New York for the past three years, the couple were not given any explanation by the US authorities for the refusal, which Reporters Without Borders regards as arbitrary. They were, however, given a form suggesting they are regarded as a threat to the United States.

“This measure is both persecutory and incomprehensible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Since when could journalists who have been accredited to the United Nations for three years suddenly pose a ‘threat’ to the United States? That is what the US authorities seem to think, to judge by the clause they brandished without further explanation.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The office of the UN secretary-general must demand an explanation from the US State Department and ensure that Granados and Rodríguez are able to return to their posts.”

Granados and Rodríguez were refused US visas yesterday in Havana as they were about to return to New York. The US Interests Section (which functions as embassy and consulate in the absence of diplomatic relations) gave them a State Department document referring to a clause “212F,” which apparently authorises the US president to deny entry to anyone posing a “threat” to the United States. The Interests Section provided them with no explanation.

The couple, who have been covering the UN for more than three years, have accreditation that is valid until next year. Prensa Latina, which was created in 1959 after the Cuban revolution, said it has always had correspondents at the UN and none of them has ever been the victim of such a measure in the 50 years of its existence.

Granados and Rodríguez described the episode as “an aggression not only against Prensa Latina’s journalists but also against good journalism.”

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