MIAMI – Several Venezuelan newspapers are at risk of imminent closure, the Inter-American Press Association warned Thursday, accusing leftist President Nicolás Maduro of impeding access to newsprint and discriminating against publications critical of his government.
IAPA, which represents editors and publishers from around the Americas, noted recent announcements that El Correo del Caroni, El Impulso, El Carabobeno, El Nacional and El Regional del Zulia “will stop publishing in the coming weeks.”
“Once more we hold President Maduro responsible for restricting the freedom of the press and the public’s right to information, by means of a special mechanism of persecution and discrimination,” IAPA’s president Gustavo Mohme said in a statement.
IAPA, which is based in Miami, charged that the Maduro government targets independent newspapers by denying them hard currency to buy newsprint or withholding government advertising.
“We are in a very chaotic situation,” said Claudio Paolillo, the head of IAPA’s free press committee. “The media are closing and with them the hopes they keep alive as democratic bastions within the country.”
At last week’s Summit of the Americas, IAPA criticized Latin American countries for remaining silent about the situation in Venezuela.
The Maduro government in the past has dismissed IAPA’s warnings about the decline of freedom of expression in Venezuela, calling the press group “an instrument of right-wing newspapers.”
Following is the full text of IAPA’s statement on Thursday:
IAPA alerts all governments about the imminent shutdown of newspapers in Venezuela
It holds Nicolás Maduro responsible for deterioration in free speech, democracy
MIAMI, Florida (April 16, 2015)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today renewed its call to the international community concerning the deterioration of democracy and press freedom in Venezuela, a situation reflected in discriminatory actions and restrictions continuing to be imposed by the government of Nicolás Maduro against the local critical and independent press.
As a follow up to an open letter addressed to government leaders during the recent 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, in which the IAPA complained of “the compliant silence” concerning the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, IAPA President Gustavo Mohme declared, “Once more we hold President Maduro responsible for curtailing press freedom and the public’s right to information through a special mechanism of persecution and discrimination, set in place with the intent of silencing independent and critical voices.”
Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, stressed that after this denunciation and those that the IAPA has been making for years now about the deterioration of press freedom in Venezuela “no one can remain indifferent to the announcements by prestigious leading newspapers such as El Correo del Caroní, El Impulso, El Carabobeño, El Nacional and El Regional de Zulia, among others, that in the next few weeks they will cease publishing because the government is not providing them with foreign exchange to import newsprint, or they have to do so through the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex, a state-run company that has a monopoly in the sale and distribution of newsprint and is used as a discriminatory weapon to punish those that maintain a journalism that is independent and true to democratic values.”
There are three means of discrimination applied by the government to independent newspapers. They are not provided with foreign exchange to import supplies, they are denied access to newsprint, and they are discriminated against by denying them official advertising that provided to other media, giving rise to an unfair competition in detriment to the plurality of voices. All this, on top of the general economic situation that has caused revenue from advertising and circulation to fall to historic low levels.
“They are facing an increasingly chaotic situation,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, “the print media are closing down, along with the few hopes of their being able to continue as democratic bastions in the nation, as was always their function.”
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that what is worse about “this situation is that the government, due to its explicit intent to curtail press freedom, ends up damaging the source of work of hundreds of journalists, employees and indirect workers who depend on that important source of income, thus undermining the freedom of expression of the Venezuelan people, who cannot have access to a wide range of sources of information.”
The IAPA officers said that “the shutdown of newspapers in recent years during this Maduro government, and the possibility that others will be closing, is a responsibility that should weigh upon all the intergovernmental institutions and governments of our Americas, because what is at play is democracy. No one should turn its back on the Venezuelans’ plight.”
The IAPA remains alert and continues to explore various ways to support the Venezuelan press.
El Correo del Caroní, in Ciudad Guayana, explained in an announcement on its Web site on Monday (April 13) that for the first time in 37 years it would be circulating with a different format, due to the crisis in the provision of newsprint that the country was undergoing. It also recalled that the print edition had already been reduced to eight pages since 2014. “We are now forced to migrate to the tabloid format so as to ensure our circulation and the editorial independence that is causing official annoyance,” announced the paper, which given these circumstances will continue to develop its digital platform.
Several days before this announcement the newspaper NotiDiario in Tucupita, Delta Amacuro state, announced on its front page that “today, April 7, will be the last print edition after 28 years …. Without supplies there is no newspaper, there is no work, there is no information.” According to the newspaper news will continue to be published on its Web page.
Last week the Valencia newspaper El Carabobeño warned that it could stop circulation for lack of newsprint. The paper, founded 81 years ago, explained that in order to be able to extend its circulation for one more month it was considering suspending future issues of its Sunday magazine Paréntesis, which has reduced its number of pages from 48 to 32.
The Barquisimeto newspaper El Impulso has also announced that it has enough newsprint for only about eight days. For the same reason in February the daily newspaper Tal Cual turned into a weekly after using up its newsprint reserves, and that December the newspaper El Guayanés stopped publishing.
The Caracas daily newspaper El Nacional has enough newsprint for less than three months, and El Regional de Zulia in Ciudad Ojeda, Zulia state, confirmed that it will run out on July 15.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go tohttp://www.sipiapa.org.