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 censored.
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.