At least five Venezuelan newspapers are expected to shut down over the next few weeks because of President Nicolás Maduro's policies, including limiting access to newsprint and targeting publications critical of his government, the Inter-American Press Association warned Thursday. El Correo del Caroní, El Impulso, El Carabobeno, El Nacional and El Regional del Zulia have all announced they will be forced to stop publishing by the leftist government, the press association based in Miami said.
Maduro limits press freedoms by making it impossible for independent publications to buy newsprint and by withholding government advertising, the group said. At the same time, Venezuela's sinking economy has depressed advertising revenue and circulation.
“Once more we hold President Maduro responsible for restricting the freedom of the press and the public’s right to information, by means of a special mechanism of persecution and discrimination,” IAPA’s president Gustavo Mohme said in a statement, according to the Tico Times of Costa Rica. Mohme is the editor of La Republica newspaper in Lima, Peru.
The press group has urged other Latin American leaders to defend press freedom by demanding that Maduro let the newspapers operate without limitations. “We are in a very chaotic situation,” said Claudio Paolillo, the head of IAPA’s free press committee. “The media are closing, and with them the hopes they keep alive as democratic bastions within the country.”
El Correo del Caroní announced on its website Monday that it would change its format because of the crisis. “We are now forced to migrate to the tabloid format so as to ensure our circulation and the editorial independence that is causing official annoyance,” announced the paper.
Earlier this month, NotiDiario in Tucupita, Delta Amacuro state, announced it would cease publication "after 28 years …. Without supplies there is no newspaper, there is no work, there is no information.” The newspaper will continue to publish online.
In Caracas, Tal Cual recently reduced its print edition from six days a week to a single weekend edition and laid off most of its staffers because of government lawsuits and sinking ad dollars. "This is a strategic retreat," news editor Xabier Coscojuela told the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We hope things get better in the future, that the next government will be more tolerant, and that we will return to being a daily newspaper."
Meanwhile, El Nacional in Caracas said it has only enough newsprint to publish for three more months.
Maduro's administration has tussled with the Inter-American Press Association in the past, labeling it “an instrument of right-wing newspapers.”