Did NewsBusters Help Cause Cuban Government to Back Down on Internet Prohibitions?

May 25th, 2009 12:08 PM

On May 11, your humble correspondent posted a story here about the lack of commentary on Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez's Generation Y threads at the Huffington Post. I pointed out that the Huffington Post folks basically yawned over a story reported by Yoani about how the Cuban government had a prohibition against Cubans accessing the Internet from hotels, which is about the only place where people down there can get on the Web.

My NewsBusters post went up at 22:00 ET and a little over a half hour later the comments started flooding in to add to the sole post that was there up until that time. As of now, there are 86 comments on that Yoani Sanchez thread which is very atypical. Usually, with one other exception where she got 26 comments, her HuffPo blogs, receive one or none in terms of responses. Why? Here was my explanation on May 11:

In many ways, the appearance of Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez, in the Huffington Post is a strange fit. Her posts tell "uncomfortable" truths that counter the leftwing attitude prevalent at the Huffington Post. However, few folks over there dare to attack her directly since she is not only talking the talk but walking the walk in that Communist island. So rather than argue with Yoani, most of her posts elicit little reaction.

The one big exception, as mentioned above, was her post about Cubans being denied Internet access. And now it seems the Cuban government has been forced to back down on this prohibition, thanks to the Web as Yoani has pointed out in her latest Generation Y blog:

I’m coming to believe that the influence of the Internet on our reality is bigger than I thought. After several days of not being able to connect to the Internet in hotels such as the Meliá Cohiba, the Panorama and the emblematic Hotel Nacional, the ban seems to have been lifted. Today I spoke with the same employees who two weeks ago showed me the resolution excluding Cubans from using such services at tourist facilities. They told me I can once again buy the blessed card that opens the door to the virtual world.

I may sound a bit boastful, but I think that if we had not raised a ruckus in recent days—denouncing such apartheid—we would have been deprived of the ability to connect. Yes, they cede when you push back, they have to amend the plan when we citizens raise our voices and the international media hears the echo. We understood this with Gorki’s case, and this correction confirms that our keeping quiet only allows them to snatch away more spaces from us. We need to make the most of the situation, now they are saying “Cubans can connect”, and take it as a public commitment. We must hold them to it and, if not, there will be Twitter, Facebook and text messages for protesting, when they try to shut us out again.

On Monday, a dozen bloggers conducted an investigation into more than forty hotels. With the exception of the Occidental Miramar, they all said they were ignoring the regulation that prohibited Cubans from accessing the internet.

The "international media" did not include the Huffington Post UNTIL their uncaring feet were held to the fire by NewsBusters. Of course, they soon returned to their usual level of indifference after that blog posting. You can see for yourself how little reaction Yoani's HuffPo postings normally receive. 

Of course, Yoani would see a much greater reaction to her Generation Y blog if she were to post some of them in the more amiable surroundings of NewsBusters. I think this has already been proven on May 11.

And congrats to Yoani on the Cuban government backdown. Saludos de NewsBusters!