Press advocate deplores newsprint import restrictions

The Inter American Press Association said Tuesday that it holds the Venezuelan government responsible for the potential closure of the newspaper El Impulso, beset by obstacles to obtain permits to import newsprint and other supplies as part of an official strategy aimed at punishing independent media.

The chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “This is clearly an extremely delicate situation in which the Venezuelan government is directly responsible for bringing about the shutdown of El Impulso and other print media for their critical editorial stance.”

El Impulso said in an editorial headlined “Nos quieren silenciar” (They Want to Silence Us), published Sunday, that it is facing problems with its newsprint, which is about to run out. The newspaper, the oldest in Venezuela which on Jan. 1 celebrated its 110th anniversary, expressed concern that this situation could affect the quality of its news content and it might have to choose to eventually interrupt its distribution.

“The supplies available to us will last hardly three weeks, and that thanks to the juggling, onerous financial sacrifices and pitiful cuts that we have been forced to put into effect regarding the number of pages and various sections of the daily,” said El Impulso, a regional newspaper published in Barquisimeto in the northeastern state of Lara.

Despite having fully complied with all the requirements contained in the legal framework” pertaining to the granting of permits and preferential foreign exchange essential to import newsprint rolls and other supplies, the newspaper said that there continues to be an official refusal regarding “humiliating delays, excuses and administrative silences; to which they do not strictly say no to, but neither do they loosen the controls of their despotic intransigence.” It is “discriminatory treatment, therefore unlawful, no doubt linked to this newspaper’s editorial stance.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said “the government of President Nicolás Maduro is continuing with its premeditated strategy of financially strangling Venezuelan newspapers, restricting their access to imported supplies essential for their publication, something that we have already been denouncing.”

The newspaper ended its editorial declaring that “they are subjecting us to their own methods of restraints, at the time of applying a gag. They seek to silence us. And while it is not a military order, it is an action of force, given that, quite clearly, it is not based on reason.”

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