The Cuban government is a declared enemy of free speech. To exercise it in the island implies being brave and assuming huge risks. To highlight the work to the Cubans that, in spite of the big obstacles, try to express themselves freely and allow their fellow citizens to have access to independent information and opinions, Red Puente Democrático Latinoamericano (Latin American Democratic Bridge Network) has created the Award to Freedom of Expression in Cuba. This year, in its first edition and on the International Day of Freedom of Expression, the prize was given to Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Ricardo González Alfonso and Guillermo Fariñas, who stand out for their defense and promotion of this fundamental human right.
The jury that gave the award was formed by Erika Luters (Chile), Fernando Ruiz (Argentina), Eduardo Ulibarri (Costa Rica), Carlos Lauría (Argentina), Andrés Cañizález (Venezuela), César Ricaurte (Ecuador) and Hugo Machín (Uruguay).
The jury gave the award to photographer Omar Rodríguez Saludes highlighting that through his lens he grabed since 1995 what the world did not see and what the regime efforts to hide. The ramshacke Havana streets, poverty and misery in which thousands of Cuban live were registered thanks to his work. His job was not easy since he had to manage to take the films out of the country without developing them, with the help of anonimous travelers who took them to the agency Nueva Prensa Cubana. His sentence to 27 years in prison is the longest towards an independent journalist.
In the award to Ricardo González Alfonso, who is sentenced to 20 years in prison, the Jury highlighted that at the moment when he was detained, Sociedad Profesional Márquez Sterling, that the ran, monitored the abuses of the regime against journalists. When a journalist in the country, in any part of the country was attacked, detained, imprisoned, or whatever, Ricardo was quickly alert or someon in Márquez Sterling for them to prepare a press release in defense. For this task, Ricardo became the correspondent of Reporters Without Borders in Cuba.
Moreover, though he is not a professional journalist, the Jury also decided to award Guillermo Fariñas, for considering that he decided to exercise journalism, and asume the risks associated to it, as a means to promote freedom of expression in Cuba. His decision faced him with government repression, the same as other citizens who, from different positions and activities, defy the totalitarian controls of the regime. Due to the official suffocation, and as a means of demonstration against the imprisonment of a series of prisoners of concience gravely sick, Fariñas recurred to the most extreme and riskfull resource of expression: to put his life in danger through a hunger stricke. With this decision, he not only honors the sense of human solidarity towards the prisoners of concience in Cuba but also with the energy of human beings to openly express their supports or rejections in the most extreme circumstances.