Dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez vows to start independent news outlet in Cuba

By Zach Dyer

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez announced her intention to establish an independent news organization on the island when she returns from her world tour, reported Agence France-Presse on Sunday, March 10.

Sánchez, 37, made the announcement after her presentation on freedom of expression in Cuba during the Inter American Press Association’s Mid-Year Meeting in Puebla, Mexico. She did not give any details beyond her announcement, according to AFP.

A well-known critic of the Castro regime, Sánchez chronicles daily life in Cuba on her blog, Generación Y, and on Twitter. Last year, she was arrested soon after IAPA named her vice-chair of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information for Cuba.

“I know it is impossible, that it is illegal. But I am not going to be the one to stop me,” she told AFP, “And I know a lot of people with a lot of energy who are going to join me in carrying out this project."

Cuba’s communist government controls the island’s media and bans private ownership of news organizations. According to Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom of the Press report, Cuba has the most restrictive laws governing free speech and press freedom in the Americas.

Sanchez’s news outlet would not be the first in Cuba during the Castro regime. Her organization would join Hablemos Press, a non-governmental organization and news outlet founded in 2009 that reports on the island, and another, Habana Press. Both organizations have faced government crackdowns for their reporting, including arrests.

Besides announcing her intentions to found a news organization, Sánchez also reported on the dismal state of Internet access in Cuba. The blogger reported that access to the Internet remains restricted and that those who have access pay upwards of $10 an hour for it, reported Síntesis. Earlier this year, Sánchez wrote on the Committee to Protect Journalist’s website that a recently activated fiber optic cable from Venezuela has done little to improve connectivity or the speed of Internet connections on the island.

Sánchez is on a world tour after a five-year battle to obtain a passport from the Cuban government. Pro-Castro protestors demonstrated against her participation at the IAPA conference in Mexico, reported Martí Noticias, and greeted her on the first leg of her trip to Brazil.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.