Cubans: Direct Line to Readers

Since 1995, when the first independent news agencies emerged in Cuba, dozens of journalists have fled the country to escape harassment, threats, detention, or jail. Many have settled in the United States or Spain, where some continue to work as journalists. Manuel Vázquez Portal, who won CPJ’s 2003 International Press Freedom Award, settled in Miami in June after being released from a Cuban jail on medical parole in 2004. He had been unjustly imprisoned for more than a year, one of 29 journalists swept up in a massive government crackdown.

“As for practicing journalism, I feel much more comfortable now,” said Vázquez Portal, who had helped establish the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro when he was in Cuba. “I don’t have to justify what I’m doing to anybody.”

Vázquez Portal works as an editor at the Miami-based news Web site CubaNet ( He also writes a column for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language edition of The Miami Herald, which employs other exiled Cuban journalists as reporters. “Here, through my opinion columns, I’m able to communicate with my readers, unlike in Cuba, where journalists are managed by political organizations. Those organizations are the ones that communicate with the readers.”

Some exiled journalists continue to work with colleagues on the island, reporting on local developments that the official press ignores. Independent journalists have no voice inside Cuba, where the government owns all media. So they file for Web sites such as CubaNet and Miami’s Nueva Prensa Cubana ( that are run by exiles.

Other exiles in the United States, Europe, and Latin America publish in the online daily Encuentro en la Red (, which is run by Cubans in Madrid, Spain. With an emphasis on opinion pieces, the Web site provides a forum for cultural and political debate among Cubans at home and abroad.

–Sauro González Rodríguez