Cuba pulls veteran correspondent’s credentials

New York, September 7, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Cuban government’s decision to not renew press credentials held by a 20-year veteran correspondent for the Spanish daily El País and radio network Cadena SER. Mauricio Vicent, whose access to official events had been restricted by the government for the past year, is now prohibited from reporting stories from Cuba, according to El País

“Withdrawing Mauricio Vicent’s press card is an act of censorship by a government that still can’t stomach independent reporting,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “The authorities must lift all restrictions on Vicent and renew his press credentials immediately.”

Press credentials are required in order to work legally as a foreign journalist in Cuba. The official International Press Center, which is part of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, accused Vicent of violating government’s ethics and objectivity regulations, according to El País. In published comments, the newspaper’s editors said they “energetically reject the Cuban government’s accusations” and consider Vicent’s work to be an “example of professionalism, impartiality, and balance.”

Vicent’s plans and those of El País were not immediately clear.

The Cuban government has a record of pulling the press credentials of international correspondents who report critically about the island nation. In 2007, the authorities refused to renew the press credentials of correspondents from the Chicago Tribune, the BBC, and the Mexican daily El Universal in reprisal for their critical coverage, CPJ research shows.

More recently, the government has retaliated in other ways against international media. In January, the state television provider stopped offering CNN en Español on the service available in hotels and international business offices, according to the international press. In the months before the decision, state media criticized the network’s coverage of the Cuban exile movement. In April, a state television program accused a Reuters reporter of arranging a meeting between an undercover Cuban agent and a U.S. diplomat whom it claimed was a CIA operative, The Associated Press reported. Reuters categorically denied the accusations.

The International Press Center’s website states that 24 foreign correspondents now work in Cuba. As Cuba implements economic reforms and prepares to introduce high-speed Internet, freedom of expression continues to be met with a policy of repression that stifles the free flow of information, a 2011 CPJ special report found.