Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:15 UK

Cuba blogger cannot receive prize

Yoani Sanchez
Yoani Sanchez's blog is one of Cuba's most popular

A dissident Cuban blogger cannot go to New York to receive a top journalism prize, after the authorities upheld a ban on her travel abroad.

Yoani Sanchez, 34, won the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for Generacion Y, a blog critical of Cuba's one-party Communist government.

The prize is the oldest international award in journalism.

It is given by Columbia University to journalists who have furthered inter-American understanding.

"The immigration office just informed me that the ban remains on my leaving the country," Ms Sanchez said on Monday via the social networking website Twitter, where she has 6,638 followers.

"I am going to celebrate on the night of the award with some friends. I am not going to let the refusal to travel ruin the happiness of the prize," she added.

"I dream of an island where nobody needs to ask permission to enter and leave."

'Better future'

Generacion Y has become a trusted source for news on Cuba, with the site receiving 14 million hits a month.

Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, released a statement expressing his disappointment over the Cuban government's refusal to allow Yoani Sanchez to travel to New York.

Generacion Y homepage
Generacion Y was also given an award by Spain's El Pais

"The Cuban government ought to value Ms Sanchez's work as a sign that young Cubans are ready to take Cuba into a better future - one that will have the free press the Cuban people deserve," Mr Lemann said.

Last year Time Magazine named Ms Sanchez as one of the world's most influential people, and this year it listed Generacion Y as one of the world's top 25 blogs.

But in Cuba readership is limited due to restricted internet access.

Only about 2.1% of Cubans have regular access to the global internet and 11.5% to the Cuban intranet, according to the Washington-based democracy and human rights organisation Freedom House.

"Bloggers can go online at government-owned internet cafes, at universities and hotels," it says.

This is not the first time Generacion Y has been given recognition - in 2008 Spain's El Pais newspaper gave it an award for overcoming limits to free expression.

Similarly, Ms Sanchez was denied an exit visa to attend the award ceremony in Madrid.

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