Friday, October 22, 2010

Cuban government urged to let Guillermo Fariñas collect Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg in December

Cuban government urged to let Guillermo Fariñas collect Sakharov Prize
in Strasbourg in December
Published on 21 October 2010
In the same country

The European Parliament today announced its decision to award this
year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Guillermo Fariñas
Hernández, a dissident journalist and blogger and tireless campaigner
for civil liberties in Cuba.

Coming 18 days after the Nobel Peace Prize went to Chinese dissident Liu
Xiaobo, the decision sends a clear signal that human rights are no
longer optional. No country can escape the obligation to respect and
ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, including freedom of movement
and the freedom to impart and receive news and information without being

Like Liu, Fariñas is a defender of these freedoms. Reporters Without
Borders awarded him its own Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2006 and offers him
its warmest congratulations for today's award.

The European Parliament wants Fariñas to come to Strasbourg to collect
the award in a ceremony on 15 December. The Cuban authorities must let
him attend. It is also time that the Ladies in White, who were awarded
the prize jointly with Reporters Without Borders in 2005, are finally
given permission by the Cuban government to travel to Strasbourg.

If Fariñas is allowed to leave Cuba, he must also be allowed to return.
He is a Cuban citizen, like his fellow journalists who were jailed in
the Black Spring crackdown of March 2003 and who were recently freed on
condition that they go into exile without any right of return. They
include the Reporters Without Borders Cuba correspondent, Ricardo
González Alfonso, who is now living in Madrid.

Aged 48 and a veteran of the Cuban military intervention in Angola, "El
Coco" Fariñas lives in Santa Clara, a city to the east of Havana. He
became a dissident in the 1990s and then turned to independent
journalism, founding a small news agency called Cubanacán in Santa Clara
in 2003.

A campaigner for the right to freely report news and information and a
defender of fellow independent reporters like himself, Fariñas has
staged more than 20 hunger strikes. He staged a particular long hunger
strike in 2006 to demand unrestricted access to the Internet for all
Cubans. He staged another long hunger strike earlier this year following
fellow dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death in prison, this time
obtaining the release of all the political prisoners who were ill.

Five journalists continue to be detained in Cuba. They are Iván
Hernández Carrillo, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez and Pedro Argüelles Morán,
who have been held since the Black Spring, Raimundo Perdigón Brito, who
was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006, and Albert Santiago Du
Bouchet, sentenced to four years in prison in 2009.

The Cuban government is supposed to release all of the remaining Black
Spring detainees by 25 October. But the three journalists still held
since the Black Spring have let it be known that they will not agree to
the government's demand that they go into exile. Reporters Without
Borders reiterates its appeal to the authorities to let them stay in
Cuba following their release.

Reporters Without Borders again hails the Spanish government's efforts
on behalf of Cuba's dissidents. We also call for the lifting of the US
embargo on Cuba, which has been in place since 1962. It penalizes the
entire population, obstructs the flow of information between Cuba and
the exterior, and allows the regime to pose as a victim. However, we
think that the European Union's "common position" on Cuba should be
maintained until Cuba ratifies the two UN conventions on civil and
political rights that it signed in 2008.,38636.html

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