Saturday, November 26, 2005

Press Freedom Group Honors Journalists from Cuba, Brazil

25 November 2005

Press Freedom Group Honors Journalists from Cuba, Brazil

Journalists from China, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe also honored

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Journalists from Cuba and Brazil have been honored by an international press freedom advocacy group for "defending the free flow of vital information" despite threats, beatings, intimidation and imprisonment.

In a November 23 statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it is honoring journalist Manuel Vázquez Portal of Cuba, who won the group's International Press Freedom Award in 2003 but was unable to accept the honor at that time because he was imprisoned by the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Now freed from jail due in part to an intensive advocacy campaign, Portal accepted his award November 22 at a New York ceremony, where he said: "Those who restrict, limit, and curtail freedom of expression are infringing upon the most sacred of human rights.  Preventing the free flow of ideas is a hideous crime."

Vázquez Portal, who lives in Miami and works as a columnist for El Nuevo Herald, urged the organization to “rescue from loneliness, obscurity, and imprisonment more than 20 journalists who are still locked up in Cuban jails.” 

“It is on their behalf, and for them, that I accept this award.  They need it.  May it reach them and set them free," Vázquez Portal said.

The repression being waged by the Castro regime against Cuba's independent journalists has been reported in the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- 2004.  That document, released February 28, says the Castro regime strictly censors news and information and limits the distribution of foreign publications.  (See the Cuba section of report on the State Department Web site.)

The CPJ said the Brazilian winner of its press freedom award for 2005, Lúcio Flávio Pinto, publisher and editor of the semimonthly paper Jornal Pessoal, has "courageously reported on drug trafficking, environmental devastation, and political and corporate corruption in a vast, remote region of Brazil's Amazon."

The CPJ said Pinto has been physically assaulted and threatened with death, and also "faces a constant barrage of civil and criminal lawsuits aimed at silencing him."

Other winners of the CPJ 2005 press freedom awards are Galima Bukharbaeva of Uzbekistan, Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe, and Shi Tao, currently imprisoned in China.

The CPJ said that "in the face of grave dangers," the award-winners have shown "extraordinary bravery, tenacity, and dedication" in performing their jobs.

CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said: "All of the awardees have risked their lives and their freedom to report the truth about politicians, policies, businesses, and crime.  For their work, these journalists have been attacked in various ways by powerful people determined to hide their actions."

The CPJ also honored the late ABC television news anchor Peter Jennings with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for a lifetime of distinguished achievement.  The award is named after a CBS television news senior producer and former CPJ chairman, who died in 1988.

"These individuals inspire us all," said Paul Steiger, CPJ board chairman and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.  "In the face of grave dangers, they have shown extraordinary bravery, tenacity, and dedication in defending the free flow of vital information."

 More information about the CPJ awards is available on the group's Web site.

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