Editor jailed for defying Castro is journalist of the year

A Cuban editor jailed for 20 years by the Castro regime has been named journalist of the year by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso was arrested in the “Black Spring” of March 2003 along with 26 other dissident journalists.

He was accused of being ‘in the pay of the United States’and ‘undermining Cuba’s independence and territorial integrity” and despite poor health has been held in Havana’s Combinado del Este prison since late 2004.

Alfonso founded De Cuba which, according to RSF, was the first independent magazine to appear in the country since Castro came to power.

He was tried on 4 April in a single six-hour session, along with dissident journalist Raúl Rivero Castañeda, under article 91 of the criminal code.

The fact that Alfonso was a correspondent for RSF was used against him by the prosecutor in the trial who described the press freedom group as a “French news agency with subversive aims.”

Winners of other RSF prizes were as follows:

Media prize

The journalists of Radio Free NK – North Korea’s first dissident radio station.

RSF said: “Kim Jong-il’s totalitarian regime has Radio Free NK, North Korean’s first dissident radio station, in its sights. Obsessed by the desire to control news and information, the regime has on several occasions threatened to suspend dialogue with South Korea if this Seoul-based station is not banned. The North Korean journalists who produce Free NK’s programmes are often threatened and the South Korean police have been protecting its manager since a plot to kill him was foiled.”

Cyber Dissident

Zarganar and Nay Phone Latt, two Burmese bloggers, were joint winners.

RSF said: “Dubbed the ‘Burmese Charlie Chaplin’, comedian Zarganar defended human rights and denounced the military government’s abuses in sketches and entries in the blog he had been keeping since August 2007. Until his arrest in June of this year, he had become a reliable source of information in a country strangled by censorship and repression.

“A special court in Insein prison sentenced 28-year-old blogger Nay Phone Latt on 10 November 2008 to 20 years and six months in prison on a charge of violating the Electronic Act, which provides for severe penalties for those who use the Internet to criticise the government.”

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