Two Cuban reporters denied visas

New York, September 30, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the U.S. government to explain its decision not to renew visas of two New York-based, United Nations-accredited Cuban correspondents.

The two Cuban journalists, Ilsa Rodriguez Santana and her husband Tomas Anael Granados Jimenez, work for the Havana-based Prensa Latina news agency, which reported that the couple has covered the United Nations in New York since 2005 with accreditation.

The two married journalists have together accumulated four decades of experience working both in Cuba and overseas in countries like India, Zimbabwe, China, and the U.S., reported Prensa Latina. They were vacationing in Cuba when they learned that their U.S. visas would not be renewed, the agency reported.

State Department officials in Washington confirmed the denial of the two Cuban journalists’ visas to CPJ, but declined to comment further.

“We are concerned by the decision of the U.S. authorities to deny the renewal of visas to Prensa Latina reporters accredited to cover the United Nations,” said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “We urge U.S. authorities to explain the reasons for their action.”

A spokeswoman for Prensa Latina in Havana told CPJ that, according to a recent letter from U.S. authorities, the two reporters were denied visas under a clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act that can deny entry to any person or group considered prejudicial to the interests of the United States.    

In February 2007, Cuba declined to renew the visas of three Havana-based foreign correspondents. Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune, Stephen Gibbs of the BBC, and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of the Mexican daily El Universal. The Cuban government’s decision was in reaction to the three journalists’ negative reporting on Cuba, CPJ found.