Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Cuba opens its door to U.S. journalists, but be careful

Flag of CubaA landmark diplomatic agreement between the United States and Cuba also opens a door to American journalists who encountered obstacles in glimpsing inside the closeted island nation over the past 50 years.

The agreement, which President Barack Obama outlined in a televised statement Wednesday, among other things eases travel restrictions for 12 economic, legal and social purposes and includes freer journalistic activities. Stringent entrance restrictions for journalists have been in place since the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and embargoed trade in 1962.

The United Nations has condemned the embargo annually as inhumane since 1992. Cuba says the embargo has cost it more than $1 trillion in essential trade.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests,” Obama said in the broadcast. “… These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.”

Journalists generally needed expressed permission from both the U.S. and Cuban governments and were advised to carry an approved or stamped media pass from their employer and a few copies of previous bylined work to demonstrate employment. Freelance journalists, meanwhile, were required to carry a signed letter from their hiring editor saying they were on assignment for a specific purpose.

It’s not known yet to what extent restrictions will change.

But even with the door opening from the U.S. side, American journalists likely will find attitudes slow to adjust in Cuba. The nonprofit Reporters Without Borders says journalists from other nations are still detained in that country. Others have been accused of terrorism or beaten.

Cuba is No. 171 out of 179 nations on RWB’s 2013 Press Freedom Index.

“Anyone trying to disseminate opinions critical of the regime continues to be exposed to harassment, threats and arbitrary arrest,” RWB says. Internet use is also still strictly controlled through the purchase of expensive permits, though that is supposed to change under the new agreement.

Central to the agreement announced Wednesday was the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor arrested by the Cuban government in 2009 and sentenced in 2011 for traveling with telecommunications equipment and using a mobile phone in violation of that government’s regulations.


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