Cuba stops blogger traveling to NYC to accept prize

NEW YORK Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:02pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cuba will not allow dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez to travel to the United States to receive a journalism prize, Columbia University said on Tuesday.

Sanchez, 34, whose "Generacion Y" blog (www.desdecuba.com/generaciony) is critical of Cuba's one-party Communist government, was due to receive the university's Maria Moors Cabot Prize on Wednesday in New York.

The prize honors journalists covering the Western Hemisphere whose work has furthered inter-American understanding.

"I am disappointed that the Cuban government refuses to let Yoani Sanchez travel to New York to receive a Maria Moors Cabot citation," Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, said in a statement.

"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," he said.

Sanchez's blog is widely read abroad and has won international acclaim. She was selected by Time Magazine as one of the world's most influential people in 2008.

But her Cuban readership is limited because Internet access is closely monitored and restricted on the island.

Cuban authorities, who often condemn internal critics as U.S.-backed traitors, have accused her of being a "professional dissident" at the service of the "anti-Cuban propaganda machine."

Sanchez's blog, which chronicles life in Cuba, get 14 million hits a month. She is also read by 6,415 followers on her microblogging Twitter account (twitter.com/yoanisanchez).

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Anthony Boadle)

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