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Venezuelan newspaper faces closure due to discriminatory permit policies

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) holds the Venezuelan government responsible for the potential closure of the newspaper El Impulso, beset by obstacles to obtain permits to import newsprint and other supplies as part of an official strategy aimed at punishing independent media.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “This is clearly an extremely delicate situation in which the Venezuelan government is directly responsible for bringing about the shutdown of El Impulso and other print media for their critical editorial stance.”

El Impulso said in an editorial headlined “Nos quieren silenciar” (They Want to Silence Us), published on January 5, 2014 that it is facing problems with its newsprint, which is about to run out. The newspaper, the oldest in Venezuela which on January 1 celebrated its 110th anniversary, expressed concern that this situation could affect the quality of its news content and it might have to choose to eventually suspend its distribution.

“The supplies available to us will last almost three weeks, and that is only thanks to the juggling, onerous financial sacrifices and cuts that we have been forced to put into effect regarding the number of pages and various sections of the daily,” said El Impulso, a regional newspaper published in Barquisimeto in the northeastern state of Lara.

Despite having fully complied with “all the requirements contained in the legal framework” pertaining to the granting of permits and preferential foreign exchange “essential to import newsprint rolls and other supplies” there continues to be an official refusal resulting in "humiliating delays, excuses and administrative silences; to which they do not strictly say no, but neither do they loosen the controls and try to work with us.” It is “discriminatory treatment, therefore unlawful, no doubt linked to this newspaper's editorial stance.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said “the government of President Nicolás Maduro is continuing with its premeditated strategy of financially strangling Venezuelan newspapers, restricting their access to imported supplies essential for their publication, something that we have already been denouncing.”

The newspaper ended its editorial saying “they are subjecting us to their own methods of restraints, at the time of applying a gag. They seek to silence us. And while it is not a military order, it is an action of force, given that, quite clearly, it is not based on reason.”

This situation is also affecting other media. The newspaper El Nacional has published four public letters complaining about the lack of payment for supplies imported six months ago. They do not have external credit in order to continue importing materials.

For the importation of foreign supplies and products, newspapers (or newsprint distributors) need a foreign exchange quota authorized by the Foreign Exchange Administration Commission (Cadivi) after receiving a “certification of products of non-national production” permit that is issued by the Industry and Commerce Ministry, which requires months of waiting.

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