Latin American media plan to send newsprint to Venezuela to prevent newspaper closures

By Diego Cruz

A group of Colombian media organizations plans to send newsprint to Venezuelan newspapers, which are facing a shortage of the valuable resource and possible shutdowns, said the president of the Venezuelan daily El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero, according to the publication El Universal.

The Colombian Association of Newspaper and Media Editors (ANDIARIOS), which includes Colombian newspapers like El Espectador and El Tiempo, planned the initiative to help El Nacional and other Venezuelan newspapers survive the newsprint shortage they experience due to receiving no foreign exchange currencies to import the product.

Since 2003, the Venezuelan government has exercised control over currency exchange, which is sold by the government “in a conditional manner, in limited amounts and after a tiresome process,” according to El Universal. Several newspapers in Venezuela have ceased publication as a result of not receiving the foreign currency they need to import newsprint.

According to Otero, if El Nacional does not receive foreign exchange to buy newsprint soon it will be forced to stop publication by the first week of May. For this reason, the newspaper’s president chose to avoid giving any more details about ANDIARIOS’s initiative, fearing the Venezuelan government would find a way to stop it.

In an article published by El Nacional, Otero said the government has not given the newspaper access to their approved foreign currency since May 2013, despite them having met all the legal requirements. He considered this a discriminatory act that impacted all news media in the country.

“Once again, this is about an attack on the freedoms of citizens, about the reduction of a right of the people, about a situation that, like many others, profoundly reveals we do not live in a democracy in Venezuela, but rather a violent and mediocre dictatorship, fierce and inefficient, rabid and corrupt, a dictatorship which has demonstrated its contempt for life and the human rights of people since Febr 12 and up until now,” Otero said.

According to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, WAN-IFRA, 20 newspapers in Venezuela have already been forced to shut down due to the newsprint shortage, while other have reduced the number of pages they print to extend their inventory.

On March 7, ANDIARIOS launched another project to help their Venezuelan colleagues called "We Are All Venezuela: Without freedom of the press there is no democracy,” in which approximately 80 news media from Colombia and Latin America publish one page daily dedicated to Venezuelan news to demonstrate their solidarity with the country’s media facing the shortage.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro condemned the project saying that no matter how many pages the regional media published, “the Bolivarian Revolution will continue on its path.”

Nora Sanín, executive director of ANDIARIOS, highlighted the importance of helping Venezuelan newspapers.

“What President Maduro seeks with his measures is to impose a single voice on Venezuela and we all have to oppose this because it would do away with freedom of the press,” Sanín said.

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.