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Cuban named 'journalist of year'

Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso (image from Reporters Without Borders)
Mr Gonzalez received the award for his support of independent media in Cuba

Media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has awarded its top annual prize to Cuban journalist, Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso.

Mr Gonzalez, who founded the island's first independent magazine, is serving a 20 year jail term in Havana.

Awards were also given to dissident North Korean broadcasters Radio Free NK and to two jailed Burmese bloggers.

RSF said the annual awards are intended to raise awareness of the right to be kept informed and to inform others.

The Paris-based group said it was giving Mr Gonzalez the Journalist of the Year award for his efforts in "helping an independent press to survive in Cuba".

The journalist was arrested in 2003 with dozens of other journalists, in a crackdown known as "Black Spring".

He was accused of being "in the pay of the United States" and "undermining Cuba's independence and territorial integrity," and was sent to jail, said RSF.

'Courage'

Burmese comedian Zarganar at his home in Rangoon (file image)
Zarganar criticised the government's response to Cyclone Nargis
The 2008 media prize was awarded to journalists at Seoul-based Radio Free NK, "in order to pay tribute to their courage and determination" to broadcast news and information into North Korea.

RSF said the North Korean journalists working at the station had often been threatened and that a death threat against its manager had been foiled.

Burmese bloggers Zarganar and Nay Phone Latt were jointly awarded the cyber-dissident award for using the internet to promote free speech.

Zarganar, a popular comedian, was jailed for 45 years in November for violating the Electronics Act, which regulates electronic communications.

He had angered the government by criticising the speed of their response to the devastating Cyclone Nargis which hit Burma in May, and organising his own relief effort.

RSF said that until his arrest in June, Zarganar had "become a reliable source of information in a country strangled by censorship and repression".

Nay Phone Latt, 28, was found guilty of "creating public alarm" in November and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

He was awarded the prize in recognition of the detailed blog he kept during the 2007 political uprisings in Burma.

RSF says that by awarding the annual prizes, they hope to alert the public opinion to the "wide range of violations of the right to be kept informed and to inform others, and to the need for a commitment to supporting press freedom".

The winners each receive 2,500 Euro ($3,200:2,170).

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