21 January 1998


CPJ expresses concern about denial of visas to jounalists and other cases

Incident details

Arevalo Padron, Arce Cabrera, David Adams, Matilde S=E1nchez, Rodolfo Pouz=E1, P=E9rez Colman, Peter Katel



Below is the complete text of a letter which CPJ sent to President Fidel
Castro regarding the cases of journalists denied visas to cover the Pope's
visit, and other pending cases.

**New cases and updates. For background, see IFEX alerts of 16 January 1998,
17 October, 18 September, and 21 August 1997 (Arevalo Padron case); 24
October and 19 September 1997(Arce Cabrera case); and 21 January 1998
(Sanchez and Colman cases) **

His Excellency Fidel Castro Ruz

President of Cuba

c/o United Nations Mission

New York, NY

January 20, 1998

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect journalists (CPJ) is writing on the eve of Pope
John Paul II's visit to Cuba, to express its concern that many international
journalists who have written critical stories about Cuba have been denied
visas to cover this newsworthy event. In the view of CPJ, a policy of
denying journalists visas to travel to Cuba in reprisal for carrying out
their professional responsibilities constitutes an attack on the press and a
violation of international law.

Among the many cases that have come to our attention are the following:

  • David Adams, Latin America correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times,=
    denied a visa to travel to Cuba to cover the Pope's visit. His editor at the
    paper was told by Cuban officials that any other reporter would be
    acceptable. Adams, a veteran Latin America reporter, has covered Cuba for
    more than a decade. Adams suspects that a story he published on
    prostitution in Cuba two years ago may have angered authorities.


  • No reporter from the Miami Herald has been granted a visa, according to
    Juan Tamayo, Cuba correspondent for the newspaper. In private conversations
    with Cuban authorities reporters were told that the paper's chances of being
    given a visa were remote because of "longstanding criticism of the Herald's
    and Nuevo Herald's coverage of Cuba."


  • Three Argentine journalists_Matilde S=E1nchez of Clar=EDn, Rodolfo=
    Pouz=E1 of
    Am=E9rica TV, and Mario P=E9rez Colman of La Naci=F3n_were denied visas.
    Concepci=F3n Mu=F1oz, a spokesman for the Cuban Embassy in Buenos Aires, was
    quoted as saying the decision was taken because of the reporters' critical
    coverage of Che Guevara's burial in October. In a speech on January 12 you
    called the journalists "mercenaries," noting, "No one should forget that
    this country knows
    how to say no and when this country says no, it's no."


  • Former Newsweek correspondent Peter Katel was denied a visa in=
    He suspected the measure was taken in reprisal for a story published in the
    International edition of Newsweek about exiled Cuban writer Eliseo Alberto.=


  • No reporter from the Miami-based Telemundo television network has been
    granted a visa to travel to Cuba.=20

    Your government's explicitly stated reason for denying a visa to many of the
    above-mentioned journalists is its displeasure with their previous reporting
    on Cuba. This action is a clear violation of Article 19 of the Universal
    Declaration of Human Rights which grants the right to "receive and impart
    information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."=20

    CPJ also remains concerned about the condition of Cuban journalists who have
    faced systematic persecution and harassment in the months preceding the
    Pope's visit. Among the more serious violations that have come to our
    attention are the following:

  • Bernardo Ar=E9valo Padr=F3n, correspondent with L=EDnea Sur 3 news=
    agency in
    Cienfuegos, was sentenced to six years in prison on October 31 for "lack of
    respect" of Fidel Castro and Carlos Lage, a member of the Cuban State
    Council. The conviction stems from a story Ar=E9valo published in which he
    revealed how a helicopter transported meat from a farm in the town of
    Aguada de Pasajeros to Havana, while the inhabitants there went hungry.
    Ar=E9valo is one of two Cuban journalists who have been jailed for=
    their profession. Journalist Lorenzo P=E1ez Nu=F1ez, from the Buro de Prensa
    Independiente de Cuba, was convicted of defamation on July 12 after a
    one-day trial for a story he published about police misconduct in Pinar del
    R=EDo. P=E1ez Nu=F1ez is serving an 18-month sentence.


  • According to CPJ's sources in Cuba, journalist Jorge Luis Arce Cabrera,=
    the Buro de Prensa Independiente de Cuba in Havana, faces imminent arrest
    because of his independent reporting. Since 1994, when Arce began his work
    as a journalist, he has been detained 23 times, and beaten three times. On
    October 23, a retired employee of the Ministry of the Interior assaulted
    Arce outside his home. The same man again attacked Arce as he was walking on
    a Cienfuegos street with his wife on the morning of October 29, hitting the
    journalist in the head with a stick. After the attack, Arce were arrested by
    the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and was told he would be charged
    with both the October 23 and 29 assaults. On October 31, Arce was summoned
    to the provincial headquarters of State Security where he was detained for
    three days. Last week Arce was fined 250 pesos by the PNR.

    As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues
    around the world, we ask that you take measures to ensure that both Cuban
    and non-Cuban journalists are free to cover the Pope's visit to Cuba, an
    event of overwhelming international interest.=20

    In your January 12 speech you noted that the work of journalists in Cuba
    will be closely monitored by your government. "We will observe how they do
    their work, with what level of objectivity, and if they publish any detail
    unfavorable to the revolution," you said.=20

    Your government will also be closely observed during this international
    event. We call on you therefore to halt the practice of denying visas to
    journalists who have written critical stories about Cuba and also to end the
    government persecution of independent journalists, beginning with the
    release of those who have been wrongly jailed for practicing their=


    William A. Orme, Jr.

    Executive Director

  • Source

    Committee to Protect Journalists
    330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    info (@) cpj.org
    Fax:+1 212 4659568
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