Cuba Denies Credentials to 3 Foreign Journalists

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 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 Corp. was "talking to the authorities in Havana about the status of its Cuba correspondent after his accreditation was withdrawn," spokeswoman Karen Rosine said Friday in a statement from London.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."

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 in 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 weren't closing their 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.

"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 program 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."

The Inter-American Press Association said it also condemned the measures, calling them "another manifestation of the arbitrary handling of freedom of expression and press in that country."