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Cuban journalist, North Korean radio station and two Burmese bloggers win 17th annual RSF Prize

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 4 December 2008 RSF press release:

Cuban journalist, North Korean radio station and two Burmese bloggers win 17th annual Reporters Without Borders Prize

The Reporters Without Borders Prize jury chose Ricardo González Alfonso of Cuba as "2008 Journalist of the Year" for helping an independent press to survive in Cuba. After daring to challenge to the state's monopoly of news and information, González was arrested on 18 March 2003 along with 26 other dissident journalists during the crackdown known as the "Black Spring." Accused of being "in the pay of the United States" and "undermining Cuba's independence and territorial integrity," he was given a 20-year prison sentence. He has been held in Havana's Combinado del Este prison since late 2004, despite poor health.

The jury awarded the 2008 Media prize to Radio Free NK's North Korean journalists in order to pay tribute to their courage and determination. Kim Jong-il's totalitarian regime has Radio Free NK, North Korea'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.

Finally, Zarganar and Nay Phone Latt, two Burmese bloggers, were chosen as joint winners in the "Cyber-dissident" category.

- 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.

The winners of the Reporters Without Borders Prize are chosen by an international jury.

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