Smaller Venezuela newspapers in crisis over lack of imported newsprint

At least 26 of Venezuela’s 46 provincial newspapers are on the verge of running out of paper, according to journalism sources in the country.

Restricting supplies to newspapers have been termed economic censorship in academic sources.

That is a situation that prompted the Inter American Press Association to call on the Venezuelan government to terminate its foreign currency requirements for newsprint paper and printing materials. Several newspapers have suspended editions due to lack of supplies.

The press advocacy organization urged the Venezuelan authorities to end bureaucratic procedures that tarnish press freedom in the South American country. The chairman of the organization’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared that “licenses for importing newsprint or newspaper equipment are contrary to the free flow of information which should prevail in a democracy.”

The government’s impediments and requirements imposed on the import of newsprint and other supplies for newspaper production that are not manufactured in Venezuela, affect mainly the smaller and province based newspapers that usually  have to resort to distributors. Since early last month, several papers have stopped printing due to lack of supplies. Among these are El Sol de Maturín in Monagas state; Antocha in Anzoátegui; El Caribazo, La Hora and El Caribe in Nueva Esparta, and Los Llanos and El Espacio in Barinas.

In order to import, the newspapers or newsprint distributors need to receive a certification of products of no-national production permit that has to be issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. In addition to this, they need a foreign exchange quota allowed by the Foreign Exchange Commission. The ministry has been resilient to issue these licenses following the newspapers’ complaints regarding the government’s decision in 2012 to withdraw newsprint from the list of importation of priority goods, a decision that has affected both the independent press and government allies.

Another main problem is that the control of foreign exchange brought about great speculation in the price of supplies. Some newspapers found themselves having to stop buying production materials outside of the official foreign currency market, due to its increasingly high costs.

The newspaper El Nacional recently reported that of the 46 provincial newspapers in Venezuela 25 are about to exhaust their supply of newsprint.

The Inter American Press Association 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 including A.M. Costa Rica.

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