The Cuban journalist and poet Raúl Rivero Castañeda, in jail since last April, was today awarded the annual Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the award was a tribute to Mr. Rivero’s “brave and longstanding commitment to independent reporting, the hallmark of professional journalism.”
Mr. Rivero is serving a 20-year jail sentence after being found guilty of undermining Cuba’s independence or territorial integrity. He and 25 other journalists were given lengthy prison terms in April last year, one month after they were arrested by Cuban authorities as part of a general crackdown on dissidents.
Dr. Matsuura called on Cuba to free Mr. Rivero – who is reported to be suffering circulatory problems in a prison in the country’s east – and the other jailed journalists.
Jamaica’s Oliver Clarke, chairman of an international jury of media professionals which awarded the 2004 World Press Freedom Prize to Mr. Rivero, said he hoped the honour would encourage Cuba to respect the right of freedom of expression.
UNESCO said today that Mr. Rivero has endured sustained harassment from the government since he left the State-controlled media in 1988. This has included several interrogations, detentions and restrictions on his movements.
Mr. Rivero founded the Cuba Press independent news agency in 1995 and the first independent association of Cuban journalists in 2001. He has also conducted training workshops for other journalists and helped publish the magazine De Cuba.
The $25,000 World Press Freedom Prize, created in 1997, is named in honour of Guillermo Cano, a Colombian journalist who was murdered in 1987 after he denounced the activities of the country’s drug barons.