Press advocate blames Venezuela’s Maduro

The Inter American Press Association has renewed its call to the international community concerning the deterioration of democracy and press freedom in Venezuela, a situation reflected, it said, in discriminatory actions and restrictions continuing to be imposed by the government of Nicolás Maduro against the local critical and independent press.

The statement is a follow up to an open letter addressed to government leaders during the recent 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, in which the association complained of “the compliant silence” concerning the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.

Association 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 Inter American Press Association 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, said the Inter American Press Association. 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 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, the association said.

The Inter American Press Association 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.”

El Correo del Caroní, in Ciudad Guayana, explained in an announcement on its Web site Monday 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.

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