Meeting at their Annual General Assembly on 13 September 2010 in Vienna, Austria, the IPI members learned with shock that the authorities in Cuba have failed to process Cuban blogger and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Yoani Sanchez’s application for an exit visa in time for her to attend the IPI World Congress.

Sanchez, who was named an IPI World Press Freedom Hero in September 2010 by an independent jury, and was to take her place among IPI’s 60 World Press Freedom Heroes at a ceremony at Vienna’s City Hall, was denied permission to leave the country.

Sanchez had referred to the award as a “protective shield” that would help her break the “wall of censorship” surrounding her.

Sanchez, on Twitter, said, „En la oficina de imigracion y extranjeria me dicen que debo volver el proximo viernes. Adios a la ceremonia en Austria!” (The Office of Immigration and Foreigners tells me to come back next Friday. Farewell to the ceremony in Austria!)

Sanchez’s blog, Generacion Y, which has become a valuable source of independent information for Cuban and others, has been banned in the country since 2008, only a year after it was launched. She has been denied permission to leave Cuba at least six times in the past two years.

IPI strongly and unanimously condemns the decision of the Cuban authorities, and urges them to reconsider their position toward Sanchez and other independent bloggers operating in the country. IPI members reaffirm our support for Sanchez and her right to free speech, and for the freedom of expression rights of all bloggers and journalists in Cuba prevented by the state from practising their profession. IPI calls on the Cuban authorities to issue an exit visa for Sanchez at the earliest possible date.

IPI also condemns the continued imprisonment of journalists in Cuba and calls for their immediate release.