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Venezuela17 December 2007

Provincial daily reappears after three-day interruption due to lack of newsprint

Correo del Caroní, a regional daily based in the eastern city of Ciudad Guayana that is openly critical of the government, was back on sale in news stands on 15 December after a three-day absence. Editor David Natera told Reporters Without Borders the daily was able to resume printing after its supplier, DIPALCA, provided it with newsprint imported from Chile.

Natera had accused the Currency Management Commission (CADIVI), the government agency that controls all foreign currency purchases, of punishing certain provincial newspapers for their criticism of the government by refusing to let them have the foreign currency they need for imported supplies.

The CADIVI responded by reporting that it had released a total of 82 million dollars to newspapers between 1 January and 30 November.

El Impulso, a daily based in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto that is also critical of the government, said it had enough newsprint to last a month and called for exchange control procedures to be simplified.

13.12.07 - Currency commission responds to charges by editor of newspaper forced to stop publishing

Responding to a complaint by David Natera, the editor of the Correo del Caroní regional daily, the Currency Management Commission (CADIVI) yesterday announced that it had released a total of 82 million dollars for the importation of newsprint between 1 January and 30 November.

The CADIVI did not say how much of this currency was made available to DIPALCA, the company that supplies the Correo del Caroní with newsprint imported from Chile. The Correo del Caroní ceased publishing yesterday, blaming the CADIVI’s refusal to make dollars available to the purchase of newsprint.

The CADIVI said its priorities, when assigning foreign currency for imports, was food, medical products, manufacturing inputs and raw material.

11.12.07 - Problem with government exchange controls prevents regional opposition daily from publishing

Reporters Without Borders is worried by the announcement that the Correo del Caroní, a regional daily based in the eastern city of Ciudad Guayana, will not be able to appear tomorrow or on subsequent days because it has been unable to obtain US dollars to pay for imported newsprint.

Editor David Natera blames the government’s exchange control system, which forces private-sector companies to address all requests for foreign currency to a single government entity, the Currency Managment Commission (CADIVI).

“This case is not the first of its kind and it is rather surprising that media companies are been denied the currency they need to pay for imported newsprint or printing costs,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Producing a newspaper is expensive and the authorities must be aware of that. The CADIVI has still not responded to the Correo del Caroní’s request. We call on the head of the commission, Manuel Barroso, to do what is necessary to get things moving and to allow the Correo del Caroní to resume publishing.

The press freedom organisation added: “We hope that exchange controls, like the allocation of state advertising, has not been turned into a way of penalizing publications for their editorial policies.”

In a note to its readers posted on its website today, the Correo del Caroní said tomorrow’s issue would not be on sale in news stands but would be available on the Internet. The newspaper’s management accused the government of refusing, through the CADIVI, to release the amount in dollars it ows to DIPALCA, a company that imports newsprint from Chile.

Natera told Reporters Without Borders he has raised the problem with certain officials but so far without success. Natera is also president of the Venezuelan Press Bloc, an association of some 40 provincial newspapers that support the opposition.

El Impulso, a daily based in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto, reported last month that it had not received the foreign currency it needed to import newsprint for the past four months. Its editor, Carlos Eduardo Carmona, accused the government of using exchange controls as a “political weapon” against the media.

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