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Authorities refuse to renew Spanish correspondent's work permit

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, September 6, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said today it is convinced that the refusal to renew a Spanish correspondent's press pass in Cuba, at a time when the crackdown on dissidents has increased, is one more demonstration of "intolerance of criticism and fear of freedom."

Mauricio Vicent, a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El País and the Cadena Ser network, who had worked in Cuba since 1991, was called into Havana's International Press Center (CPI), an agency of the Foreign Ministry responsible for issuing credentials to the foreign press. There he was told that the government would not renew his work permit because of his portrayal of a "partial and negative" image of the country.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, condemned the decision and said "this is one more demonstration of the lack of freedom of the press to which the government of Cuba regrettably has us accustomed." He added, "The Cuban regime always acts the same way" - a reference to the fact that every time there is a heightened crackdown on dissidents, such as the attacks on the Ladies in White - "freedom of information is shut off in an attempt to hide its intolerance of criticism and its fear of freedom."

The accusation of Vicent's bias was refuted by his newspaper which described his journalistic career as "an example of professionalism, impartiality and balance." It called the official action "an attack upon freedom of expression and of information" and revealed that it had been a year since the Cuban authorities had not renewed Vicent's accreditation, making it impossible for him to take part in press conferences and report on official events.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, recalled that the organization had been complaining in its twice-yearly reports on press freedom in Cuba that "foreign correspondents are closely watched and the official control is strict in that they have been warned not to cover sensitive topics, otherwise their legal status in the country could be affected, thus making self-censorship a common practice, as some of them have acknowledged."

Article 46 of Resolution No. 2006, which regulates the work of the foreign press in Cuba, says that "The CPI [International Press Center] may temporarily suspend or definitively withdraw provisional or permanent accreditation when the holder conducts actions inappropriate or unconnected to his or her profile and work content, as well as when it is deemed that he or she has not adhered to journalistic ethics and/or does not observe objectivity in his or her reports." The CPI decision is irrevocable, Cuban officials say.

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