Cuban-American journalist receives prestigious fellowship

The International Center for Journalists earlier this month announced six Knight Fellows, including Cuban-American journalist José Jasán Nieves.
Jasán is editor-in-chief of El Toque, a leading source for news about Cuba. As a Knight Fellow, he “will work to produce a sustainability playbook for exiled newsrooms on how to thrive while serving their home communities from outside the country,” ICFJ’s website states.
I met Jasán in 2015 when I interviewed him for a story about Cuban 20-somethings. See story in USA Today. Back then, he worked at OnCuba, a monthly publication founded by Cuban-American Hugo Cancio. He has accomplished much since then and has risen in prominence.
In 2023, Jasán was one of 20 Newmark J+ Social Impact Fellows at City University of New York. The fellowship honors “journalism leaders and change makers.”
CUNY’s website states:
“These individuals possess the transformative ability to reshape not only their organizations but also the entire news industry through state-of-the-art strategies, inventive business models, and profit-generating products.”
Also in 2023, Jasán won the LASA Media Award, “given every year to recognize long-term journalistic contributions to analysis and public debate about Latin America… as well as for breakthrough journalism.”
Jasán’s biography says he “has been in exile since 2019, when he had to leave Cuba and settle in Miami, Florida. Among the many things he had to leave behind was a team of more than 20 people with whom he had built the independent media platform El Toque. Faced with growing risks, more colleagues left the country until El Toque became a fully transnational newsroom operating from 10 countries.”
Corporate records show that Jasán is listed as the registered agent for a Florida company called MediaPlus.Experience Inc. According to LinkedIn, the for-profit company is “a marketing agency specialized in media and Non-Profit organizations (although we also have B2B2C businesses in our client portfolio 😉). We are based in the United States and Spain. With our work we help support independent projects, focused primarily on freedom of expression, human rights and equality. If you are interested in promoting a project with our services and, at the same time, developing your philanthropic side, contact us! 😎”
U.S. government spending records show that the U.S. Embassy in Havana awarded MediaPlus.Experience $24,000 on Jan. 31, 2023, for “news media monitoring.”
On Sept. 14, 2023, records show the embassy gave the company $27,478 for “social media development.”
On Aug. 11, 2023, the State Department awarded the firm $150,000 to “provide professional developers and journalistic talents.”
The awards totaled $201,478.
elTOQUE, which publishes news reports, investigations, a currency tracker and other information, is controversial in Cuba. In a May 10 article about the news site, Reuters said: “Cuba’s government and independent online news site El Toque exchanged blows this week after state-run media accused the website of manipulating the black market currency exchange rate to impoverish Cubans and stoke unrest on the Caribbean island.
“The El Toque site ( has enraged the administration of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel by publishing a rate in Cuban pesos for the greenback far higher than the two official levels set by his government.”
CubaDebate, a state-run media site, says elTOQUE’s currency tracker amounts to “financial terrorism.”
“elTOQUE is secretly financed by the United States and establishes a false value of the peso in relation to the dollar,” CubaDebate said in a May 8 article. “The strategy aims to foment protests in Cuba.”
In response, elTOQUE posted on X:

🚨 Alert! 🚨 The Cuban regime, unable to assume responsibility for the serious economic crisis that is sinking the country, intends to accuse us of “terrorism” for reporting on the #devaluation of the national currency.
It is not just an attack on our platform, but an effort to divert attention from the true causes of the #crisis.
Despite pressures and threats, we remain committed to our mission of reporting with transparency and rigor. They will not shut us up!

I wondered if the State Department money helps finance elTOQUE. I emailed Jasán asking for more information about his company, MediaPlus.Experience.
On May 29, Jasán kindly replied to my questions. He wrote:

Mediaplus.Experience provides services to clients who require design, marketing campaigns or social media management, news monitoring, advertising or technology development (websites, chatbots, mobile applications, etc.) As a company, once it covers its expenses and pays its taxes, it delivers its profits to the El Toque budget. In this way it contributes to its sustainability as a means of communication.
The exchange rate service is not related to the contracts that Mediaplus.Experience has.
The Cuban government’s accusations are absurd, but dangerous. They try to justify punitive and violent measures against members of our team and as such we denounce them. For the Cuban government, furthermore, there is no legitimate financing if it is not for them to control, therefore, as I have said on other occasions, for us it does not make sense to begin to discuss the legitimacy of some funds with respect to others, following the pattern of what the Cuban government argues. In our case, we do not accept money related to terrorism, drug trafficking or any other crime, and we do not allow any financier to intervene in our agenda, which is built according to our will and without external intervention. That is the relationship we have with all those who support us, be they non-governmental organizations, international cooperation agencies, public diplomacy funds, private foundations or commercial clients.”

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