The Evolution of the Cuban Press

15 years ago, in March 2013, Fidel Castro’s government dealt a hard blow to independent journalism in Cuba, sending 75 dissidents to prison, among them many reporters and columnists.


Journalists such as Raúl Rivero, Adolfo Fernández Saínz and Manuel Vázquez Portal were sent to prison for having exercised their profession, writing articles about the national situation and offering interviews to foreign media.

It appeared that the non-government press had been completely extinguished with that repressive blow, but little by little new voices began to emerge that narrated an Island far from that aligned to the mastheads of the newspapers controlled by the Communist Party.


Fifteen years after that raid against the independent press, the ecosystem of autonomous media has grown and become extremely plural.


New technologies, blogs, digital publications and the timid flexibilizations of Raúl Castro’s government with regards to Internet access have contributed to the growth of independent media.


Thus, magazines that address cultural life have appeared, such as ‘Vistar’, or sports in the style of ‘Play Off’, entrepreneurship as in ‘Negolution’ ,or the world of fashion and good taste like ‘Garbos’.


The information choices have also expanded with the coming of daily publications such as ‘Cubanet’, a pioneer in reporting from the Island, ‘Martinoticias’, ‘Diario de Cuba’ and ’14ymedio’, among others.


The emergence of groups that report the violation of the rights of independent journalists, such as the Association for the Freedom of the Press (APLP), have also represented an important step in telling the world what is happening with news on the Island.
In this diversity of media standouts also includes media dedicated to reporting on the life of communities after natural disasters or environmental damage as ‘Periodismo de Barrio’, as well as sites that offer narrative journalism such as ‘El Toque’ and ‘El Estornudo’.


The official response to this expansion, diversification and increase in the quality of the independent press was not long in coming. Unlike in 2003, the government of Raúl Castro has not sentenced reporters to long prison terms, but has censored digital sites, arrested journalists and confiscated their tools of the trade. Sol Basulto and Henry Constantin, above, are among the victims of these practices.
The official press has also been forced to address certain issues it was previously silent about, in the face of evidence that the news is reaching the public through the ‘weekly packet’, illegal satellite dishes and the USB memory sticks.


Today, fifteen years after that ‘Black Spring’ of 2003, and 126 since José Martí founded the newspaper ‘Patria’, the Cuban press is going through difficult but fertile times. Censorship, self-censorship and repression shape much of what is published but every day independent media are breaking the official monopoly on information.


14ymedio biggerThe 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.