With the purpose of "optimizing resources and managing inventory more efficiently," the newspaper El Nacional of Venezuela will stop circulating "temporarily" on Mondays and Saturdays starting on Aug. 20, the publication reported Aug. 19 in a short message entitled “Cinco días por la libertad” (Five days for freedom).
In its message, El Nacional recalled other measures it has taken to maintain its circulation, such as decreasing page count and temporarily suspending some products. It also mentioned the “solidarity of other newspapers on the continent” which have provided spools of paper and other materials that allowed El Nacional not to interrupt circulation.
“One thing is for sure: El Nacional will continue to circumvent the mechanisms of suffocation, trials, fines, sanctions and censorship through internet blockades,” the message ended.
The newsprint crisis in Venezuela began in 2012 when paper and other supplies –which are not produced in Venezuela– entered the list of non-priority products, which forced media to request the approval of foreign currency for its importation. By 2014, crisis was already a reality. That year "at least ten regional newspapers stopped circulating and another 31 media outlets had to reduce their page counts,” according to a Report from the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR.
One of the reasons for this crisis has to do with the difficulty of getting dollars needed to import the material. However, one of the most serious accusations is made against the state-owned company Complejo Editorial Alfredo Maneiro (Ceam), which is accused by critics of allegedly granting newsprint to media closer to the government.
El Nacional has not only faced this newsprint crisis, but has also been the target of trials, fines and digital blockades, as it denounced on Sunday and has said in the past.
For a few months, the newspaper has been reporting blockades to its page within Venezuelan territory. In fact, its Twitter profile has a message asking users to report the locations where the paper’s page is blocked, as well as their internet providers, using the hashtag #ElNacionalLuchaPorLaVerdad (El Nacional Fights for the Truth).
Judicial decisions and processes also compound the problems. On June 5, it was reported that a judge imposed a fine of almost US $12,000 against El Nacional as a result of a defamation suit brought against it three years ago by Diosdado Cabello, first vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela and deputy of the National Constituent Assembly.
The lawsuit filed by Cabello for defamation originates from the reproduction of a note by the Spanish newspaper ABC in which Cabello was linked to drug trafficking. This suit is the reason that Miguel Henrique Otero, president of this newspaper, has been in exile since 2015.
Also, on May 22, the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) of the country reported that it opened a sanctioning procedure against the El Nacional website for the alleged violation of an article of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Media Electronic, and another article of the Constitutional Law Against Hate for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance.
According to what Otero told the Knight Center at the time, this decision has to do with El Nacional's coverage of high voter abstention in the presidential elections held on May 20. “This is the first time that they threaten through the web, but with print we’ve had threats like this and harassment from the government many times,” Otero said in the moment.
This Aug. 20, when the paper started its new schedule of circulating five days a week, Otero sent a message to the Venezuelans to continue with their struggle after the latest economic measures taken by President Nicolás Maduro. Although he does not refer specifically to the newspaper's decision, he does report on his struggle at the head of El Nacional to keep it afloat.
“I have waged a business struggle without truce, against a regime that has tried all its resources to suffocate us economically, and destroy us with the desire to silence us,” Otero said.
“The conditions are here to overcome differences, so that the fight can be unanimous. The time has come for the decisive struggle against the Maduro regime. It is not time to decline. Each of us must contribute his grain of sand, the collection all these grains of sand will make us invincible. We will be a solid mountain,” Otero added.