Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cuba orders Tribune reporter out

By Phil Rosenthal
Tribune media columnist
Posted February 22 2007, 6:49 AM EST

Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Gary Marx, who has been based in Havana since 2002, was told Wednesday by Cuban officials his press credential will not be renewed and he can no longer report from there.

"They said I've been here long enough and they felt my work was negative," Marx said. "They did not cite any examples.''

The decision on Marx comes at a critical time for Cuba, with longtime leader Fidel Castro's age and health setting the stage for possible transition.

Marx was one of only among a handful of permanent correspondents for U.S.-based news organizations in Havana. CNN and the Associated Press also have Cuba bureaus.

A reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel will continue to staff the Tribune Co. bureau, and the Cuban government told Marx it would welcome an application from a new Chicago Tribune correspondent. That might take time to process, however, and new rules for reporters entering Cuba initially require the renewal of papers every 30 days.

"We're very disappointed and concerned by the news that the Cuban government has decided to not renew our correspondent's credentials and has asked him and his family to leave the island," said George de Lama, Chicago Tribune managing editor for news.

"Gary Marx is an accomplished, veteran journalist who has consistently given our readers accurate, incisive and insightful coverage from Cuba, working under sometimes difficult conditions," said de Lama, who helped establish the Tribune Co. bureau, which opened in Havana in March 2001. "We remain committed to coverage of Cuba and its people, and we are assessing our options of how to proceed."

Officials told Marx he had 90 days to leave the country. He told them he and his wife have a 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son whose school year ends in mid-June and that they were planning to leave Cuba after that anyway. "They said they would be flexible," he said.

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