Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Few South Florida journalists given OK to cover papal visit from Cuba

Posted on Tuesday, 03.27.12


Few South Florida journalists given OK to cover papal visit from Cuba

The Miami Herald and Local 10 television among few local outlets allowed into Cuba to report Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the island.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The Cuban government has issued thousands of visas to pilgrims and journalists who want to witness Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island — but virtually shut out South Florida reporters and photographers.

None of the local Spanish-language television stations, and only one of the English-language broadcasters, received visas. The exception was Local 10 television, which sent anchors Calvin Hughes and Jen Herrera.

Cuba also approved visas for Miami Herald reporter Maureen Whitefield and photographer Pat Farrell — the first approvals since 2005 — but denied requests for reporter Patricia Mazzei and photographer Al Diaz. It did not response to a visa request for interactive editor Nancy San Martin. . It also did not respond to requests from Miami Herald sister publication El Nuevo Herald for reporters Juan Tamayo, Al Chardy, Daniel Shoer Roth and videographer Jose Iglesias.

“We are rejected because the South Florida media, and above all the Hispanic media, are permanently reporting on … what the Cuban government refuses to inform on,” said Miguel Cossio, editorial and news director at AmericaTeVé Channel 41.

Havana officials have reportedly accredited more than 300 news outlets from around the world, including the mayor U.S. television networks and the Spanish-language Univisión and Telemundo chains.

Two visas went to reporters Kevin Hall and Franco Ordonez of The Washington bureau of McClatchy, the company that owns the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and 28 other newspapers.

But three leading European newspapers — La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera of Italy and El País of Spain — were still awaiting replies to their visa applications on Friday, according to one European journalist.

Most of the entry permits issued to journalists were valid for only a one-week period coinciding with the papal visit. One U.S. reporter said his request to arrive two weeks before the pope so that he could report other stories was turned down.

It is illegal for foreigners to practice journalism in Cuba without a government accreditation, which can be obtained only by those holding a valid journalist’s visa.

Havana also expects 5,000 visitors for Benedict’s visit in “organized trips” such as pilgrimages — compared to the 10,000 for Pope John Paul II’s historic visit in 1998 — plus others travelling individually, according to one Cuba travel analyst.

Spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said Cuba denied visas to six persons who applied to join the Miami archdiocese’s pilgrimage to attend the papal masses in Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Archdiocese officials have said that about 800 applied.

One would-be pilgrim rejected was Robert Royal, a Catholic author and president of the Faith and Reason Institute based in Washington, who told El Nuevo Herald that he has written columns critical of the Cuban government.

Another was Miami exile Marcelino Miyares, who participated in Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and now heads the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba.

Among those who received visas were Miami businessman Carlos Saladrigas and several other wealthy Cuban Americans in the Cuba Study Group, a Saladrigas-led group that favors improved U.S.-Cuba relations.

Saladrigas is scheduled to deliver an address Friday, on how “Cubans in the diaspora” can become active in the island’s social issues, at the Felix Varela Cultural Center run by of the Havana archdiocese.


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