Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez defied the island’s communist authorities Wednesday when she launched the online site 14ymedio — the first independent Cuban media outlet in the past 50 years — with the goal of providing a “full spectrum” of the news.
“14ymedio is the fruit of the evolution of a personal adventure that has been transformed into a collective project,” Sánchez wrote on the website. “Now, I’m allowed bigger dreams. Maybe in one year our publication will be available on the corner news stand — who knows?”
That’s certainly a lofty goal. Although the government of Raúl Castro has so far ignored the site, it regards all dissidents as mercenaries hired by Washington. Cuban law prohibits the distribution of independent mass media, and newspaper publishing is not an authorized business on the island — so Sánchez would be prohibited from obtaining a license to operate and hire a staff.
And there is little expectation that 14ymedio will have much impact inside Cuba. Although Sánchez has won international acclaim for her Generation Y blog, which often takes a sharply critical view of Cuba’s authoritarian regime, she is far less known on the island.
Cubans interviewed by The Associated Press on Wednesday said they are unlikely to read the publication because they lack a home Internet connection. And the cost of an online connection — $4.50 an hour — at Internet cafés and hotels makes access prohibitive.
Moreover, Sánchez’s effort to challenge the Castro media monopoly stumbled out of the gate Wednesday. Readers inside Cuba who logged on to the site were met with a page of bitter criticism of Sánchez — a site featuring the work of well-known pro-government writers, according to the AP.
“Bad strategy by the Cuban government to redirect our site from Cuba,” Sánchez wrote on her Twitter account shortly after the hack. “There’s nothing more attractive than the forbidden.”
But that the site even exists — that the Castro regime did not crack down on Sánchez — is a sign of a softer line on dissidents in recent years. Last year she was granted a passport and traveled the globe extensively after sweeping immigration reform on the island. She had been denied permission to travel 20 times in the previous five years.
Before being hacked Wednesday, 14ymedio — a name that plays on the year of the site’s launch and the Spanish word for media — offered sports coverage, beauty tips and reported news pieces offering a critical view of the government, including an interview with jailed writer Ángel Santiesteban. Another feature story looked at the victims of petty night crime in Havana by interviewing patients at the Calixto García hospital.
“There have been lots of obstacles,” Sánchez wrote in her opening column on Wednesday, referring to her four-year “obsession" with publishing 14ymedio. “From those imposed by a power which looks at information as a form of treason, to the skepticism of some friends. But that’s the nature of obsessions — they don’t tend to be defeated easily.”
With the Associated Press