CubaNet posted on its website today a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on abuses of the press in Cuba during 2006. The report notes that, despite the news interest in Castro’s infamous intestinal illness, foreign journalists were denied entry into Cuba as the communist government classified Castro’s medical condition as a state secret:
Foreign journalists flocked to Cuba to report on one of the year’s top stories, but many, including Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, were rebuffed, ostensibly because they did not have proper visas. CPJ documented at least 10 cases in which the government barred entry to foreign journalists carrying tourist visas. Under Cuban immigration law, foreign reporters must apply for specialized journalist visas through Cuban embassies abroad. CPJ research shows that Cuban officials have historically granted visas to foreign journalists selectively, excluding those from media outlets deemed unfriendly. Cuban law further specifies that foreign journalists who travel to the country on a tourist visa “should abstain from practicing journalism.”
The government also canceled the visas of at least four foreign journalists who had received approval to travel to Havana, according to CPJ research. Several Reuters reporters who managed to get into the country on tourist visas were told to leave. And Ginger Thompson, a reporter for The New York Times, was tracked down and expelled after her paper published a non-byline story from Havana. The Miami Herald succeeded in getting some of its reporters into Cuba on tourist visas. They went undetected for several weeks, filing stories that surveyed Cubans about their thoughts on the transfer of power and the nation’s future.
The CubaNet story goes on to talk about how independent Cuban journalists are jailed or otherwise mistreated by the Castro regime, earning it a spot among the top 10 most censored countries in the world, according to CPJ.