Lack of press materials worsens, causes Venezuela’s oldest newspaper to temporarily stop its print edition

Update (Jan. 11): On Jan. 11, El Impulso newspaper received the long-awaited shipment of newsprint (about 30 reels) from state entity Complejo Editorial Alfredo Maneiro (Ceam), according to the newspaper.

The dean of the Venezuelan press will be able to circulate its printed version for approximately three more weeks, starting this Thursday, Jan. 12. However, for the owners of the newspaper and its more than 180 workers, the uncertainty remains as to whether Ceam will authorize them to buy another batch of newsprint that will allow them to continue producing and publishing their print edition without interruption.

Original (Jan. 6): Due to lack of newsprint and other press materials, 22 Venezuelan print media had to decrease their page counts and suspend the inclusion of inserts and special editions during the last six months of 2016, according to the Press and Society Institute of Venezuela (IPYS Venezuela).

For the same reasons, Venezuela’s oldest newspaper, El Impulso, was unable to celebrate its 113th anniversary on Jan. 1 in its print edition. Due to lack of newsprint, Dec. 31, 2016 was the last time its press printed the newspaper. It recently heard from the governmental entity in charge of selling imported newsprint that its last order will be filled, with which they can continue to print the newspaper for about three more weeks. However, they do not have a delivery date at this point.

According to IPYS Venezuela, El Impulso - newspaper in the city of Barquisimeto, in the state of Lara - printed the editions of the final days of November 2016 with borrowed paper. Only recently, on Dec. 1, did it receive the paper requested on Nov. 18 from Complejo Editorial Alfredo Maneiro (CEAM).

Since CEAM was created by the government in May 2013 as the only company through which the media can import press supplies, IPYS Venezuela has recorded numerous complaints from executives and print media workers against the entity for its poor management and delivery delays.

In that sense, obtaining press supplies that are not produced in Venezuela, such as newsprint, photo plates and ink is becoming increasingly difficult for the nearly 90 print media circulating in the country. Especially after, in 2012, the Ministry of Planning and Finance excluded these supplies from the list of priority import goods.

Carlos Eduardo Carmona, president of El Impulso, said on the newspaper’s website that he continues to be surprised that, while official media have never faced problems with paper supply, independent newspapers circulating through the country have to go through torture to obtain their raw material.

“Those of us who are part of the family of El Impulso have made the greatest efforts to continue informing the people of Lara and the whole country, in a truthful, objective and timely manner. We have never changed our editorial line that defined our ancestors, respectful, but firm and without adulations, which is what has allowed us to obtain the respect and support of all. We are confident that soon we will be back on the street,” Carmona said.

Additionally, the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) commented on the exacerbation of the crisis that affects the production of print media.

Mario Ruiz, the national secretary of SNTP, told Tal Cual that he will file a complaint with the International Labor Organization (OIT for its acronym in Spanish) to reinstate the rights of press workers that are being violated “at the whim of government officials.”

Regarding the case of El Impulso, Ruiz also said that they will send communications to CEAM, the Attorney General’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office, so that the authorities answer why they are not being given newsprint.

El Impulso expressed gratitude on its site for all the signs of solidarity shown due to its situation. However, despite CEAM’s response, the uncertainty continues as to when it will be able to release its next print edition.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) lamented that in Venezuela, 2016 closes with “toughest” censorship and restriction of the Venezuelan press, referring mainly to the cessation of El Impulso's print edition.

Roberto Rock, chairman of IAPA”s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, condemned “the insolence with which the Venezuelan government is applying censorship in a manner that is as subtle as it is gross,” according to a press release from the organization.

On Jan. 4, representatives from the different political parties and civil society that make up the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD for its acronym in Spanish), called a press conference to discuss the cessation of El Impulso and the crisis of print newspapers in general.

They publicly demanded the representatives of the Executive Power, President Nicolás Maduro, Ombudsman Tarek William Saab and CEAM to restore the supply of press materials to El Impulso and to all newspapers in Venezuela that suffer the same restrictions, which violate the free exercise of journalism, the right to freedom of expression and information.

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.

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