Dissident blogger launches Cuba's first independent online newspaper

HAVANA Wed May 21, 2014 12:22pm EDT

Cuba's best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, speaks to reporters outside Havana's Jose Marti International Airport May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

Cuba's best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, speaks to reporters outside Havana's Jose Marti International Airport May 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Desmond Boylan

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez launched Cuba's first independent online newspaper on Wednesday with reports questioning the quality of Cuba's healthcare system but access to its maiden edition was soon redirected to another site mocking the journalist.

The new site 14ymedio.com seeks to draw attention away from the communist-ruled country's state-controlled media and challenge the government's heavy media restrictions. Cuba has been tolerating a greater criticism in recent years but not yet from such a professional-looking website produced on the island.

Within its first 90 minutes on line, links to 14ymedio.com instead led to a site called yoani$landia.com, a reference the official Cuban critique that she is motivated by greed. The lead headline on the site was about her former Italian translator who split with Sanchez, saying she was rude and only wanted to become rich and famous.

The website called the interference a redirection, not a hack, and it seemed to mostly affect users with Cuban servers.

From her Twitter account, Sanchez called it a "bad strategy by the Cuban government to redirect our web 14ymedio.com from Cuba. Nothing more attractive than what is forbidden."

As launched, the site had stories of a type rarely seen in official Cuban media, for example doubting the quality of Cuba's free healthcare system, officially seen as a triumph of the 1959 revolution.

A headline asks "Does our health suffer from international missions?," questioning Cuba's program of exporting doctors in exchange for Venezuelan oil and to Brazil, which has helped make professional services the country's top export.

One color piece paints a picture of some lackadaisical staff during an overnight shift at a major hospital's waiting room, with a number of nurses asleep.

It says police brought in a handcuffed suspect with cuts on his arm and that similar cases of the wounded came in all night because "there is a war in the streets." Official media shy away from stories on violent crime.

A third cover story further tweaks authorities by reporting that soccer is gaining on baseball in popularity, suggesting they see the rise of football as a threat "as if sports preferences were a matter of national security."

Sanchez's blog on daily life and politics in Cuba, Generation Y, has rattled the Cuban establishment, and she has won prestigious media awards in the United States and Europe.

Some 28 renowned journalists and intellectuals, including Peruvian author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, signed a manifesto in support of 14ymedio for its debut.

The Cuban government in turn has tried to discredit her as well-paid propagandist doing the bidding of the U.S. government, and six of the site's nine reporters have been called in for questioning by state security officials, Sanchez said.

Most Cubans will not be able to read the new publication. Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million have access to the Internet, and most of those who do have only been able to explore a limited, state-controlled basket of approved websites.

(The story adds dropped word "launched" from first paragraph)

(Editing by David Adams and W Simon)

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Comments (4)
Chazz wrote:
But…didn’t Michael Moore (a poster child and physical specimen of excellent health) PROVE to us in one of his “documentary” films that Cuba’s health care system is AWESOME?

May 21, 2014 2:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
PaulBradley wrote:
@Chazz – - Yes, however, Michael Moore didn’t go to Cuba and got sick in such a manner that would make him to experience the Cuba’s health care on his own overweight body.

May 21, 2014 5:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Laster wrote:
Associated Press

Associated Press in Washington
theguardian.com, Thursday 3 April 2014 08.34 EDT

US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest and undermine government

USAid started ZunZuneo, a social network built on texts, in hope it could be used to organize ‘smart mobs’ to trigger Cuban spring

“Documents show the US government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban spring, or, as one USAid document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”


May 21, 2014 12:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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