06 September 2013
IAPA calls on Venezuelan government to allow newspapers to import newsprint
MIAMI, Florida (September 6, 2013)The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the Venezuelan government to terminate its foreign currency requirements for newsprint paper and printing materials, so that several of them can resume publication after having suspended it due to lack of supplies.
It pronounces that a reduction in papers’ operating capacity would be ‘catastrophe for press freedom’ MIAMI, Florida (September 6, 2013)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the Venezuelan government to terminate its foreign currency requirements for newsprint paper and printing materials, so that several of them can resume publication after having suspended it due to lack of supplies. The IAPA urged the Venezuelan authorities to end bureaucratic procedures that tarnish press freedom in the South American country. The chairman of the organization’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared that, as expressed in the Declaration of Chapultepec and in the Principles on Freedom of Expression at the inter-American level, “licenses for importing newsprint or newspaper equipment are contrary to the free flow of information which should prevail in a democracy.” The government’s impediments and requirements imposed on the import of newsprint and other supplies for newspaper production that are not manufactured in Venezuela, affect mainly the smaller and province based newspapers that usually have to resort to distributors. Since early last month, several papers have stopped printing due to lack of supplies. Among these are El Sol de Maturín in Monagas state; Antocha in Anzoátegui; El Caribazo, La Hora and El Caribe in Nueva Esparta, and Los Llanos and El Espacio in Barinas. Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay weekly Búsqueda, said that “we could be facing a catastrophe of great proportions for press freedom if the operating capacity of the Venezuelan newspapers is reduced.” He added, “It is unavoidable to contemplate that the import license is being used with the intent of muzzling the press,” for which reason he urged the authorities to stop imposing anti-democratic restrictions. In order to import, the newspapers (or newsprint distributors) need to receive a “certification of products of no-national production”, permit that has to be issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. In addition to this, they need a foreign exchange quota allowed by the Foreign Exchange Commission (Cadivi). The Ministry has been resilient to issue these licenses following the newspapers’ complaints regarding the government’s decision in 2012 to withdraw newsprint from the list of importation of priority goods, decision that has affected both the independent press and government allies. These inconveniences- in importing newsprint and other supplies -are nothing new. In 2007 the IAPA complained to Cadivi that “IAPA’s discomfort is even greater considering that the majority of Venezuelan newspapers have the same uncertainty about importing newsprint and other supplies, which would put at imminent risk the publication and circulation of their products, thus affecting press freedom, freedom of expression and the people’s right to information.” Another main problem is that the control of foreign exchange brought about great speculation in the price of supplies. Some newspapers found themselves having to stop buying production materials outside of the official foreign currency market, due to its increasingly high costs. The newspaper El Nacional recently reported that of the 46 provincial newspapers in Venezuela 25 are about to exhaust their supply of newsprint. The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.