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Mayor's office confiscates, suspends weekly paper for allegedly failing to pay taxes

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 23 April 2010, José Pinto Rosario, director of Citizen Protection and Security of the municipality of San Fernando, ordered the seizure of the latest issue of the weekly paper "Notillanos" (a total of 4,000 copies) published in the State of Apure, in southwestern Venezuela.

Pinto also notified the media outlet that it must remain closed for 180 days, a period that could be extended, because it has allegedly failed to pay municipal taxes.

The copies of the paper were seized by municipality personnel who, aided by the police, intercepted the vehicle in which they were being transported and took them to the municipality's headquarters. Notice of the closure was sent to the magazine through the driver of the vehicle who was transporting the copies.

Before the seizure, the mayor's office published an official notice inviting all the region's media outlets to appear before its tax department so that they could be informed of their situation regarding the payment of municipal taxes.

Saday Flores, chief editor of "Notillanos", told IPYS that the magazine's lawyers attempted to comply with this requirement twice but were unable to get access to its file or information about the amount it allegedly owed.

Flores explained she does not know what taxes the mayor's office meant, as media outlets do not pay taxes to the city. The journalist supposes the measure is a form of reprisal against accusations published by "Notillanos" about alleged administrative irregularities in the municipality, whose mayor is Jhon Guerra.

On 22 April, Alberto Morales, the municipality's lawyer, announced "Notillanos"'s closure on the regional TV station ContacTV program "Par de Dos".

Morales stated that the confiscated copies will not be returned and that the decision to close the media outlet will remain until the outstanding amount is paid. He said this is not a violation of freedom of expression, but an action taken against a company that does not comply with the law. "Notillanos" journalists said the municipality will burn the confiscated copies.

Vladimir Hidalgo, the weekly's owner, told IPYS that the copies of the magazine were seized without a court order and stated that the weekly's lawyers will file an appeal to avoid the media outlet's closure.

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