HAVANA – A group of young journalists, freed of the ideological constraints of the official press and operating in a legal limbo at unregulated Internet-based Cuban media outlets, are offering a street-level view of the Communist-ruled island that provides a more complex, rich and diverse picture.
El Toque, El Estornudo and Periodismo de Barrio are some of the independent, online publications that have emerged on the island, offering an editorial line that differs both from the ideological slant of official dailies Granma and Juventud Rebelde and that of the dissident-linked media outlets that often operate from outside Cuba.
An entire community that abstained from voting over the unfilled promises of its leaders, the illicit sex-toy trade, pollution produced by the Havana Club rum distillery and unsanitary conditions in certain neighborhoods are some of the stories these alternative media outlets have brought to light.
“That degree of freedom, that sense of doing what your journalistic responsibility and commitment tells you to do is wonderful and something I didn’t feel at the state-run media outlets,” the 30-year-old head of El Toque, Jose Jasan Nieves, told EFE.
That publication, an alternative-media pioneer on the island, was founded in 2014 with the support of RNW Media, a Netherlands-based non-governmental organization that promotes media plurality in countries without freedom of the press.
But by year’s end it will be a fully Cuban-run project that is financed through the sale of advertisements and services.
Since its founding, El Toque has focused on telling the stories of ordinary citizens, including the entrepreneurs of Cuba’s incipient private sector, one of the island’s engines of economic change.
“It’s not only the stories. We’re also proud of the more reflective, less polarizing tone we employ,” Jasan said.