Maduro starts papers despite shortages

The Inter American Press Association has expressed indignation at the announcement by Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro of the creation of two government newspapers at the time that one of the pioneer papers of the South American country’s press, El Impulso of Barquisimeto, reported in an editorial that it will cease publishing next week due to the lack of newsprint and other supplies, at “one of the saddest times for press freedom in Venezuela.”

The chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, said that with this action “there is demonstrated once more the bipolarity regarding press freedom of the Venezuelan government which on the one hand brazenly announces the creation of new official media and on the other maintains a systematic and oppressive economic and legal policy, with the intention of shutting down privately-owned and independent media.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that Maduró’s announcement of the creation of media funded by the Venezuelan people’s money is part of the propaganda apparatus with which he continues closing down anything that criticizes and monitors. In this regard he added that the government also achieved that several independent media, under pressure, have changed their ownership with the object of neutralizing criticism. He mentioned the sale of the newspapers El Universal and Últimas Noticias, and that of the television network Globovisión.

“It is a disgrace to see how at one of the saddest times for freedom of the press in Venezuela the governments of the countries of the Americas are showing indifference towards the precepts of freedom of expression and democracy contained in the Inter-American Democratic Charter which are flagrantly violated to the detriment of the Venezuelans,” Paolillo added.

El Impulso, which has been published for the past 110 years and owned by the Carmona family, said in an editorial Tuesday that starting next Monday “we will be preparing ourselves for the bitter situation of bringing the circulation of this newspaper to a halt.” The article added that since late 2012 “we have been alerting, through news reports, editorials and on the op-ed pages concerning the intense lack of supplies of raw materials and the obstacle to obtaining foreign currency.”

At the same time that this editorial appeared President Maduro was announcing the creation of the daily newspaper of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela and another, Los Mazazos, whose name alludes to a television program of National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello. The government has a vast network of media that are not publicly-owned but are used as governmental media, among them nine television channels, radio stations and newspapers, and a national and international news agency.

The government ceased providing foreign exchange to the independent press for the purchase of newsprint and other supplies. As highlighted in the report on Venezuela at the meeting of the Inter American Press Association in April this year as of that date there had temporarily or definitively ceased to be published the newspapers Caribe (Nueva Esparta state), La Hora (Nueva Esparta), Versión Final (Zulia), Los Llanos (Barinas), Diario de Sucre (Sucre), Antorcha de El Tigre (Anzoátegui), El Sol de Maturín (Monagas), El Expreso (Bolívar) and El Guayanés (Bolívar).

Also identified were other newspapers with circulation problems for lack of newsprint: El Oriental (Monagas), La Región (western Venezuela), El Regional (Zulia), La Prensa de Monagas (Monagas) and El Correo del Caroní (Bolívar). Meanwhile papers of another media group reduced their number of pages, among these El Nacional, El Caribazo (Nueva Esparta), Los Llanos and La Prensa (Anzoátegui) and El Impulso (Lara), which this week announced a halt to its print edition.

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