Expulsion Of Swedish Journalists Highlights Repressive Press Conditions

New York, August 30, 2000 — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deplores the recent detention and imminent expulsion of three Swedish journalists in Havana, reportedly because of their contacts with members of Cuba’s beleaguered independent press.

At around seven a.m. on August 29, Interior Ministry agents arrested Birger Thuresson, Peter Götell, and Helena Söderqvist at their guest house in downtown Havana. The three journalists, all from small Swedish newspapers, had reportedly met with Cuban independent journalists at a workshop on freedom of the press. The Cuban government has accused the Swedes of violating their tourist visas by engaging in journalistic work.

The visiting journalists were sponsored by the Swedish International Liberal Center (SILC), an organization that promotes democracy. They will likely be deported to Europe on an Air France flight tonight, according to wire reports.

“The deplorable treatment of these Swedish reporters shows that the Castro government is still terrified of any information it doesn’t control,” said CPJ communications director Judy Blank. “In Cuba today, anyone can be arrested just for talking to an independent journalist.”

“This case highlights the daily risks that Cuban independent journalists take when they try to cover the news,” Blank added. “Today, three independent journalists are languishing in prison for reporting that was deemed critical of the Cuban system.”

In May, CPJ named Fidel Castro to its annual list of the 10 Worst Enemies of the Press for the sixth consecutive year, saying, “Castro’s government continues its attacks on independent journalism by interrogating and detaining reporters, monitoring and interrupting their telephone calls, refusing to let them travel freely, and routinely putting them under house arrest to prevent coverage of political or religious events.”