May 23, 2014

Cuba still blocks blogger Yoani Sanchez’s digital newspaper

But Yoani Sanchez publication has 5,000 Twitter followers in three days

A digital newspaper launched by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez remained blocked on the island Friday but continues to publish fresh stories and gained more than 5,100 Twitter followers in its first three days.

People on the island who try to visit the Web site are redirected to, which reflects the Cuban government’s attacks on the blogger as part of a U.S. campaign to undermine the communist government.

Internet technicians who have tested the connections say the redirection is being done by ETECSA, the Cuban government’s telecommunications monopoly. Web surfers abroad can access the correct address without a problem.

Cuba’s government controls all newspapers and radio and television stations on the island and regularly blocks access to Web pages that it considers to be hostile.

The Miami-based Inter American Press Association blamed the government for the hack, saying that “sadly, this censorship shows that the Cuban government still believes that freedom of expression is a concession … not a human right.”

Roberta Jacobson, assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, did not specifically blame Cuban authorities but said in a Twitter post, “we condemn the blockade of 14ymedio and support independent journalism in Cuba.”

The Reuters news agency bureau in Havana reported that a Cuban government spokesman had said he did not know who was blocking Sanchez' site. The spokesman also declined to make available an ETECSA representative, the report added.

Newspaper staffers nevertheless have been updating the publication at least twice a day since its launch Wednesday. On Friday, it reported that Berta Soler, head of the dissident Ladies in White, had claimed that about 30 members had been detained to block a Thursday gathering of the women’s group in Havana. They were released hours later.

Sanchez has said that 14ymedia can be accessed from inside Cuba through an “anonymous server” – referring to a sometimes complex way of getting around censors – but declined to make public many other details about its operations.

Reinaldo Escobar, editor in chief of the publication and Sanchez’ husband, said Friday that staffers have not been harassed by authorities since Wednesday, although some were warned by State Security officials before the launch.

Escobar told el Nuevo Herald by phone that he did not know the total of visits to 14ymedio since its birth but noted that its Twitter account already had more than 5,100 followers as of Friday afternoon.

Asked about the publication’s finances, Escobar said he did not understand why no one ever asks about the finances of Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. The Cuban government, not the party, pays for the newspaper, he added.

“I can assure you not one cent from any Cuban was spent” on 14ymedio, he added.

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