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Cuban website founder denied travel permit; Uruguayan journalist threatened; more Bolivian journalists mistreated

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 6 May 2008 IAPA press release:

IAPA blasts Cuban government for refusing to let award-winning blogger travel to Spain

MIAMI, Florida (May 6, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said today that the refusal of the Cuban regime to let blogger Yoani Sánchez leave the country "unmasks the restrictions on free speech and press freedom that the new government is fiercely maintaining."

Sánchez, winner of the online journalism category of the Ortega y Gasset Prize awarded by the Spanish newspaper El País, was unable, despite intensive efforts, to obtain an exit permit to travel to Madrid to take part in the award presentation ceremony there scheduled for tomorrow.

The 32-year-old founder of the blog "Generación Y" (The Y Generation) - http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony - in April 2007 was included in a list of the 100 most influential people in the world in this week's edition of the U.S. magazine Time.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared that the government treatment of Sánchez displayed by this latest incident clearly shows that authorities are continuing their control over information and banishes hopes that were raised with the leadership change in Cuba.

"This incident shows the new government in its true colors, continuing as it does with the same restrictions on free speech and press freedom," Marroquín added, recalling that, like Sánchez, several journalists who were released from prison were denied permission to leave Cuba despite having refugee visas from other nations.

The IAPA's report on the state of press freedom in Cuba presented at the organization's meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, in March said several blogs there, among them Sánchez's "Generación Y," had been repeatedly blocked by the authorities.

A total of 25 independent journalists remain in prison in Cuba, 12 of them in serious ill health.

Threats and attacks

The IAPA also expressed concern at cases of threats to and attacks upon other journalists that had been reported to the organization.

Among these was one incident in Uruguay, where in late April Félix Obes Fleurquín, editor of the Montevideo-based Web site Equinos, received telephoned threats in response to a strongly-worded piece criticizing the government.

In Mexico, journalist and lawyer Roberto Domínguez Cortés, a columnist for the newspapers Cuarto Poder and El Orbe in Chiapas, was attacked on May 1 as he was doing his morning exercises in a park in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas state. Two men punched him and beat him over the head with sticks, causing injuries that required him to be hospitalized.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia the newspaper La Razón reported that in just three days nine journalists were victims of violence in the capital, La Paz, and in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where on Sunday a referendum for regional autonomy was held. The journalists involved were Miguel Carrasco, a La Razón photographer; Franco Conchari, reporter, and Marco Ayllón, photographer, of Red Uno; Martiza Roca, a reporter of Marítima radio station; David Moreno of El Deber; Chande Lima, photographer of El Norte, and three journalists of the Unitel and Megavisión television channels. In addition, the premises of Canal 24 TV Norte in La Paz were damaged.

New case (Obes Fleurquín) and update to the Generación Y website case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92118

Also updates the alert on recent attacks on journalists in La Paz and Santa Cruz: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93330/

For further information on the Domínguez Cortés case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93315/

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