- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said Tuesday that she hopes to launch her new independent media project in the next month.

Earlier this year, Sanchez announced her plan to found an independent media project in Cuba. Independent journalists have blogged and published videos for several years now, even as their work remains illegal on the communist island. But Sanchez says that’s not the biggest challenge. Diffusion is.

“We hope that by the end of April, early May, the baby will be with us,” she told participants at the 5th annual media and marketing forum Hispanicize in downtown Miami. “We didn’t want improvisation. The improvisation hasn’t gone well in Cuba. We are taking our time.”

Sanchez declined to name the project before it goes live but said she hopes it will provide a range of journalism: investigative pieces, profiles, short and long forms.

She already has 11 staffers, including herself and her husband, a veteran journalist who used to work for the government’s official newspaper.

Sharing their work on an island where internet access is expensive and government censorship is widespread requires creativity. Raul Castro’s government recently announced expanded email access, but an hour of internet generally costs $5 - 25 percent of an average monthly salary in Cuba. Sanchez, who spoke in Spanish, said she hopes to use email, texts and “paquetes,” or flash drives, which are an increasingly popular way to share information. The drives are often used to share movies and other audio visual entertainment.

Sanchez’s blog Generation Y describes slices of Cuban life, often highlighting government dysfunction. But she doesn’t consider herself a dissident. She said she’s not interested in labels for the new media project either. We call it “journalism in capital letters” she told The Associated Press.

Last year, Sanchez took advantage of the Cuban government’s relaxation on travel, spending three months in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. She said the trip has provided her something of an “umbrella” against government and other harrassment. Internationally, she is one of Cuba’s most recognized activists. She has more than 600,000 followers on her official Twitter site. Back home, though, she is less well-known.

Sanchez said she has received training from veteran journalists abroad and discretely on the island. She is funding the project privately from the awards she’s won and from individual donors. Sanchez’s international profile and support from institutions like the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation give her both a broad platform and credibility.

She said she’s prepared for government efforts to discredit her project and even to attempt to insert? false information into her reports.

“The best protection is having nothing to hide. We aren’t keeping arms under the bed,” she said. “We are doing journalism.”

But she remains hopeful about the future. She noted the use of Twitter on the island has developed in the past year. Originally, it was mainly used to denounce government repression. Now, she said, it’s increasingly used to share cultural events, poetry and photos.

“The window remains very small, but we hope to eventually be able to open the door,” she said.

Follow Laura Wides-Munoz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lwmunoz

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