Knight Center
Knight Center


Cuban online magazine El Estornudo reports it is blocked on the island

Cuban online magazine El Estornudo said the Cuban government has blocked access to the site, one of the main digital media outlets of an emerging independent journalism scene on the island.

“In just over two weeks, on March 14, we will be celebrating two years of stories, photo-reports, essays, illustrations and opinion columns,” El Estornudo wrote in its Feb. 26 editorial, “Note to the Censor.” “As a reward for this small but honest exercise of resistance, the Cuban government has decided to block direct access to the magazine from the national territory, causing us to lose not only a considerable amount of readers, but also a good part of our fundamental readers.”

The El Estornudo team is made up of Cuban journalists who live on the island and in other countrie; and according to what Carla Gloria Colomé, editor and reporter at the site, told the Knight Center, they had suspicions for about a week before the closure.

“We did not want to say anything, because we were not certain,” Colomé said. During this period, the collaborators who are in Cuba “sometimes could enter [the site], sometimes no.”

“We looked to see if there was a problem with the site, with the domain and others, but finally, no. We did not want to get paranoid, and that's why we did not say anything before because we wanted to check if it really was that they had blocked it. Several contacts that we have in Cuba and elsewhere have told us that yes, access to the magazine is effectively blocked,” she said.

In the editorial, El Estornudo said that the measure "is not surprising" and that there are other Cuban media whose access is blocked on the island, like Diario de Cuba, CiberCuba and Café Fuerte. "But we can not incorporate censorship. Although this is already the natural state of things, we must continue to remember that censorship is arbitrary and forced, the deprivation of the basic right to speak and exist,” the text said.

According to Colomé, this is the first time in the two years that El Estornudo has been online that access to the site is blocked on the island. "They may persecute you in Cuba, not leave you to do your journalistic work, but the only censorship possible when your media is on the internet is to block the site from Cuba," said the editor.

The measure “will not modify the editorial line of our magazine by an ounce nor will it make El Estornudo dialogue with the political power on the terms that the political power expects,” the editorial read.

According to Colomé, "when you know Cuba, you know that there will never be any kind of dialogue with the Cuban government. From the moment you have it in your mind and you decide to create a magazine, you know that you are on your own on many things. There will be no communication with the Cuban government and we will not try because it is impossible. Not us, no one.”

The online magazine El Estornudo was founded in March 2016 and is part of a recent boom in Cuban independent and digital journalistic media that defy the island's laws since Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution prohibits private ownership of the press. Unlike websites that are dedicated to opposing the government, El Estornudo positions itself as a site that seeks to expand journalism available to Cubans. In 2017, journalist Jorge Carrasco won the Gabriel García Márquez Award for Journalism in the Text category for a report published in the magazine.

The site has about 35,000 monthly visits, and most of the readers are in the United States, Colomé said. Next come the readers who live on the island itself and those who live in Spain and Mexico, where "there are also strong communities of Cubans," the editor said.

The team plans to create a newsletter to share El Estornudo’s content with readers in Cuba via email, Colomé said. She said a magazine contributor once met young readers of the site in the northern province of Matanzas while reporting. "Without saying that she worked at El Estornudo, they said 'we love a magazine called El Estornudo,' and they started to quote texts, authors, and really knew the magazine and everyone had read it. So, that gives us a satisfaction like nothing else in life, we are doing something, they are reading us, there are people that believe in our project, that we have a great responsibility.”



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