By Yenibel Ruiz
Due to a lack of newsprint, regional newspaper El Carabobeño in the state of Carabobo, Venezuela stopped circulating its print edition after 82 years. The paper reported the news in an editorial in which it qualified the event as a “blow to freedom.”
The March 17 editorial began: “Today, a vile blow has materialized against one of the most sacred rights of a human being: the right to be informed.” The newspaper will continue to publish through digital platform el-carabobeno.com and through its online radio station.
The editorial said “it has been a cruelty” against the company, which was founded in 1933 and had never feared those in power at the presidential palace of Miraflores. “Not even the tyrant Juan Vicente Gómez” who sent the newspaper’s founder Eladio Alemán Sucre, into exile to Cuba, it added.
Editor-in-chief of El Carabobeño, Carolina Gonzalez, said in an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that “The government persecuted us for our editorial line.” She added that they hope the closure is not definitive.
Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ, said that “the closure of El Carabobeño represents another blow to freedom of expression and the right of Venezuelans to continue to be informed.”
Meanwhile, according to Noticia al Día, Tinedo Guia, director of the National Association of Journalists of Venezuela (CNP for its acronym in Spanish), said the organization is outraged that the agency responsible for selling newsprint to the paper, Corporation Maneiro, refused to allocate print to it.
“Corporation Maneiro exerts a monopoly dependent of government. It is not beneficial or useful, but the government uses it to deny paper,” he said.
Carlos Correa, director of nonprofit Espacio Público, also spoke against the forced closure of the newspaper El Carabobeño, stating that the print media “‘are suffering the monopoly of paper’ and have been weakened steadily since 2014,” according to Efecto Cocuyo.
“The situation is very uncertain for the Venezuelan press this year. There are more than five media that have closed, others have had to reduce circulation, if you add the number of editions with that of pages that have been printed, you will discover that they have been reduced a quarter of what they were two years ago,” he said.
The suspension of the print edition of El Carabobeño “is warning number 17 that IPYS Venezuela recorded between January and the third week of March 2016, regarding difficulties of the purchase of paper and other supplies,” the Venezuelan branch of the Press and Society Institute (IPYS for its acronym in Spanish) reported on its website.
"IPYS Venezuela insisted that the repeated refusals in the delivery of currency for the import and sale of newsprint, which caused at least eight newspapers in the country to stop circulation, violates the right of citizens to be informed and to make use of the media to publicly make known their complaints."
In January of this year, 86 newspapers that comprise the Chamber of Regional Newspapers of Venezuela were declared to be “in emergency” after learning that there was no paper to continue their operations, the newspaper La Nación reported at the time.
Some newspapers, like Caracas’ Tal Cual and Correo del Caroní in Ciudad Guayana, an industrial city in the eastern part of the country, have changed to weekly editions due to the shortage of newsprint, CPJ reported.
Since March 8, El Carabobeño had warned “about the fact that its inventory of paper ran out, leaving it just 10 days of storage before the print edition would disappear,” said newspaper El Universal.
However, the newsprint crisis at this newspaper started in 2013 when it had to remove several of its alternative editorial products, according to IPYS Venezuela.
So far, Corporation Maneiro has not responded to El Carabobeño’s requests for the purchase of newsprint, according to El Universal. Newspaper representatives assured that they also petitioned the governor of the state, Francisco Ameliach.
El Universal reported that about 308 workers are affected by the closure of the print edition of the newspaper “with the imminence of becoming unemployed.”
IPYS said on its website that “with this technical closure, paragraph three of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights of the Organizations of American States (OAS), which states that the right to freedom of expression cannot be restricted by indirect methods of means, such as “abuse of official or private controls of paper” for the print media, is violated.”
It reports that since August 2013 to March 2016, about 43 printed media in 15 Venezuelan states have reported problems acquiring newsprint, and other supplies such as access to ink, films and plates due “to the restrictions on access to preferred currency for the import of raw materials, which Complejo Editorial Alfredo Maneiro centralized since 2015.”
The journalist union and community expressed their rejection through the hashtag #YoSoyCarabobeño, and with demonstrations and rallies in the street with slogans like “Reporting is not a crime” and “No more media outlet closures.”
However, contrary to the majority of statements, president of the ONG Journalists for the Truth, Marcos Hernández, said that the case of El Carabobeño “does not have to do with paper,” according to reporting from El Universal.
"It is no secret that the newspaper El Carabobeño had entered a deep economic crisis that has resulted in a situation that now has badly managed this media outlet, and now they say it is because of paper," he said, according to El Universal.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.