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REGIONS:

Critical paper shortage in Venezuela sparks regional support

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Local daily El Carabobeño is at risk of joining a list of 20 newspapers in Venezuela that have stopped printing due to the shortage of newsprint in this South American country. Paper supplies are scarce in Venezuela due to government restrictions to obtain dollars necessary to pay the supply imports.

El Carabobeño used to publish a 40-page daily edition, but it only publishes 24 pages these days in order to make their paper stocks last until June. Citing the same reasons, newspaper El Nacional reduced its daily print edition to only eight pages.

"Many stories go unpublished now due to a lack of paper supplies and we have fewer spaces available for advertising," says Daniel Alemán, deputy director of the newspaper El Carabobeño. In fact, restrictions to import newsprint in Venezuela work as "indirect measures of censorship," says the NGO Espacio Público.

Seeing the threat to press freedom in the neighbouring country, the Colombian Association of Newspaper and Media Editors (ANDIARIOS) started the initiative "WE ARE VENEZUELA, Without Press Freedom, There is No Democracy." Through this initiative, Colombian newspapers affiliated to ANDIARIOS devote one page of their daily editions to publish news about Venezuela. The news is provided by Venezuelan journalists who cannot post their content due to a lack of paper in the country. A few days later, other print media associations in Latin America joined the initiative and as a result, about 80 regional newspapers are now publishing a daily page dedicated to Venezuela.

"We started this campaign because of a growing concern for the situation for journalists in Venezuela. Every day there are more restrictions to press freedom against those who attempt to report," says Gerardo Araújo, publisher of Colombian newspaper El Universal in Cartagena.

ANDIARIOS created a secure webpage where each media can choose news produced by Venezuelan journalists. But the government of Venezuela condemned this regional campaign immediately. "They can publish one, a thousand, and one million pages, but the Bolivarian revolution will continue its course," said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during an interview with Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

ANDIARIOS is also considering a donation of 52 tons of paper to Venezuela. "What President Maduro is seeking with his measures is to impose a single voice in Venezuela and all of us have to oppose it because it is going to end press freedom," says Nora Sanin, ANDIARIOS Executive Director.

The campaign WE ARE VENEZUELA began on Thursday March 7 with a commitment to publish news on Venezuela for a week but media organizations are considering continuing with the campaign through March 20, according to Sanin.

The organization invites media companies from around the world to join the initiative and to consider donating newsprint to Venezuela. "It is essential that the world and especially Latin America know that freedom of speech is dying in our country," says Alemán.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, WAN-IFRA, addressed a letter on Monday 10 March to President Nicolás Maduro, expressing its “serious concern with the censorship and intimidation of media seeking to cover recent protests.” The world's press organization expressed its particular concern over “the attacks on journalists and media outlets covering the protests”, government restrictions on access to foreign exchange for the importation of newsprint, and on access to the internet and Twitter". WAN-IFRA reminded Maduro that measures such as “revoking journalists' credentials, restricting access to printing supplies and limiting social media are acts of censorship” and urged him to “take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of journalists carrying out their profession”.

The full letter can be read here.
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