HAVANA (Reuters) - Independent Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who chronicles the woes of life in communist-run Cuba, was awarded one of Spain’s top journalism awards on Friday, the Ortega and Gasset prize for digital journalism.
Spanish newspaper El Pais, which awards the prize annually, said Sanchez won it for her “shrewdness” in overcoming hurdles to freedom of expression in Cuba, her “vivacious” style and her drive to join the “global space of citizen journalism.”
Her "Generacion Y" blog is the most popular blog posted from Cuba (www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/).
It received 1.2 million hits in February for its Web page on a server in Germany.
“This is great encouragement for Cuban bloggers who are still at an embryonic stage,” she told Reuters by telephone from her home in Havana.
“It recognizes that Cuban blogs can be a parallel source of information, reflection and opinions independent from Cuba’s official media,” the 32-year-old philologist said.
Sanchez has drawn considerable readership by writing about her daily life and describing the economic hardships and political constraints in her country.
Sanchez said she started her blog as a therapy to “let out frustrations,” and write about the Cuba that never gets into the official press.
She has criticized Cuba’s new President Raul Castro, who succeeded his ailing brother Fidel Castro last month, for his minimal steps to improve the standard of living of Cubans.
“Who is the last in line for a toaster?” was the title of a recent blog that satirized the lifting of a ban on sales of computers, DVD players and other appliances that Cubans long for, though toasters will not be freely sold until 2010.
In a country where the press is government-controlled and no independent media exists, Sanchez and other Cubans bloggers have found a new vehicle of expression, even though access to the Internet is controlled by the state.
The younger Castro has encouraged more public debate on Cuba’s shortcomings in a drive to shore up socialism.
(Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes, editing by Todd Eastham)