How the worldwide media reported on the birth of this newspaper and its subsequent censorship on the island
14ymedio, June 21, 2014
Hours before 14ymedio was born, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a column by Gina Montaner, “14ymedio’ against ’55ymedio” contrasting the name of our yet unborn daily with the long years that the island lived submerged not only in a lack of information, but also under institutionalized disinformation. Montaner emphasized one of the challenges to the Cuban press, so different from those faced by the international media: “In Cuba everything is up for grabs and the real revolution—the technological one accompanied by freedom of expression—is one of the great challenges of the post-Castro period.” The Cuban journalist added: “If Cubans get access to ‘14ymedio’, it will be a breath of fresh air compared to the nauseating ‘Battle of ldeas’ of the government media.”
A few minutes after 8 a.m. Cuban time this past May 21st, 14ymedio was visible in all the countries of the world. But on the island it could only be seen for a little over an hour. Then, our website was diverted to another address where they tried to discredit the director of 14ymedio.
The international press reported this blockage. The prestigious American newspaper The Wall Street Journal ran a headline on the 22nd, “ Cuban Dissident Starts Website, Which Is Promptly Hacked.” “Cuba’s government explicitly bars any printed material that it interprets as a threat, so there are no independent newspapers,” noted the newspaper. But despite the lack of internet access in the island, said the writer, the new website “poses a direct challenge to the Cuban regime’s almost total control of information.”
A day after the 14ymedio blockade the Inter-American Press Association (SIP) issued a statement denouncing the situation, which was reproduced by several outlets, including El Nuevo Herald. “While the measure is not surprising, the world expected more tolerance from the government of Raul Castro, considering his efforts to show a more positive, more open image in order to garner more respect from the international community,” it said in a statement setting out the SIP’s views on freedom of expression.
The blockade was lifted briefly on May 24, the day of the publication of a long commentary in the newspaper Granma, which denounced the “project of the counterrevolutionary blogger Yoani Sánchez to create a digital media outlet.” Several international media outlets reproduced 14ymedio’s tweet encouraging Cubans to “read us before the next blockage,” which indeed occurred a few days later. Since then Cubans have had to go back to this newspaper by anonymous proxies that hide the IP of the computer, to prevent the identification of the source of the connection.
On June 2nd the Nuevo Herald of Miami spotlighted the “battle against censorship” in a series dedicated to 14ymedio. Further from our borders, various European media announced the birth of 14ymedio: the British BBC; El Pais in Spain (which published a report last May 22 titled “Birth of the free press in Cuba” and on June 15 interviewed its director); and La Repubblica in Italy, among others. The leading French newspaper, Le Monde, also ran a note to explain the blockade suffered on the island. The title it chose, “Cuba: le premier média numérique bloqué independant dès are lancement” (“Cuba’s first independent online newspaper blocked at its release”), angered some of the independent publications that came before, but from the outset 14ymedio has acknowledged the work of its predecessors.
In Mexico, the daily La Razon devoted considerable space to 14ymedio, reprinting an article most representative of the its writing as part of a piece titled “They Have Resources for a Year and 11 Journalists.” “The editorial staff is composed of 11 persons including Yoani and her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, a journalist with extensive experience, who worked with the official press, but left 30 years ago. Other team members are young Cubans, mostly under 30 years old,” said the newspaper, which also republished the first story run in 14ymedio, “Red Dawn: Havana is Killing Out There.”
Translated by Tomás A.