U.S. Opens Door To Cuba Bureaus p.11

By: M.L. Stein NINE AMERICAN NEWS agencies are on the starting line and raring to run for Havana following a White House green light to open bureaus in communist Cuba for the first time in nearly 30 years.
But the starter gun won't be heard until Fidel Castro's government grants visas to operate out of Havana.
In a change of policy, the U.S. granted special licenses to the news organizations to establish what basically are commercial enterprises in Cuba, enabling them to skirt the economic embargo that forbids Americans to spend money in that country.
One of the news companies, Cable News Network, already has won Cuban government permission to open a bureau there.
The others Washington gave the go-ahead to are the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Dow Jones & Co., CBS News, ABC News, the Spanish-language TV network Univision, and Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, which publishes the Cuba Info newsletter.
The Treasury Department granted the special licenses to all the organizations that had requested them.
"We welcome the action of the U.S. government and will continue the effort that has been under way for a long time to try to win permission from the Cuban government to reopen our bureau in Havana," AP President Louis D. Boccardi told E&P.
The wire service closed its Cuba bureau in 1969, when one of its reporters was ordered out of the country.
AP, like several other U.S. news organizations, has sent reporters to the Caribbean island nation from time to time with permission from authorities there. Various foreign news agencies, including Agence France-Presse, maintain regular bureaus in Havana.
George de Lama, the Chicago Tribune's associate managing editor for foreign and national news, said the paper was eager to return to Cuba, which it began covering before the Spanish-American War.
"If we get permission today, we'll be there tomorrow," he said.
De Lama, who was expelled from Cuba in 1980 while covering the Mariel boat lift, acknowledged that American correspondents there are likely to face government pressures in connection with their reporting. In his case, he recalled, "They didn't like something I wrote and told me my visa had expired."
"It will be a challenge but we'll tell it like we see it," de Lama promised.
The Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Co. paper, plan to jointly staff a Havana bureau, de Lama said. "For the Sun-Sentinel, Cuba is a local story," he added.
Sun-Sentinel editor Earl Maucker said he was eager to get under way, and representatives of the paper have been meeting with Cuban officials to pave the way for a bureau. "My feeling is that they will not move quickly on visas," Maucker remarked. "I think they will proceed cautiously."
Cautious also was Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr. "We'll see what it means," he said of the U.S. approval. Meanwhile, he continued, the paper has "made all the proper applications in Havana and talked to the right folks in Washington. But the proof is in what will come to pass."
It is "full speed ahead" for CBS News, according to spokeswoman Sandy Genelius. "This is something we have been pursuing for some time and we're anxious to get going. This is an interesting part of the world and we're anxious to establish a bigger presence there."
Last year, CBS anchorman Dan Rather interviewed Castro at length in Havana, and other networks' staffers have made reporting trips to Cuba.
The New York Times reported Feb. 13 that in light of Washington's decision, the Times planned to apply for a license to open a permanent Havana bureau.
When this reporter traveled to Cuba six years ago for an E&P article on Cuba's foreign and domestic media, he was told by some correspondent ? who would only talk anonymously ? that their outgoing copy was not censored but a wrong story in the government's view could mean instant expulsion.
"If they really don't like something I've written, I could be out of here in 48 hours," said the chief of a Western news bureau.
?(It's up to Fidel Castro's communist government to open the door to the permanent presence of U.S. news media, even though Washington's ironclad economic embargo remains in place.) [Photo & Caption]


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