Relying on the newsprint of neighbors (2nd Update)

BkYBnKkIAAAfgKS.jpg largeAs more visible forms of pressure against the media are gaining in prominence, the newsprint shortage faced by most newspapers in Venezuela (which I coined Newsprint-geddon) is still on the march.

On Sunday, El Universal announced that it would reduce its printed edition from Mondays to Saturdays, starting April 15th. Weeks ago, Barquisimeto’s El Impulso said that it has enough newsprint until April 12th and Coro’s La Mañana could stop publishing by end of April.

Another national newspaper, El Nacional, could deplete its reserves by early May, and it has stopped printing two related publications: free morning newspaper Primera Hora, and women’s magazine Eme.

In the middle of this crisis, a gesture of solidarity came last week from our Colombian neighbors. The National Newspapers’ Association (Andiarios) decided to lend 52 tons of newsprint to three Venezuelan papers: El Impulso, El Nacional and El Nuevo Pais, so they can continue publishing a little big longer. Two trucks, carrying banners saying “We are all Venezuela” (Todos somos Venezuela), left Cartagena on April 1st to deliver the newsprint.

However, their journey has been filled with obstacles. The first truck was first denied its entrance into the country (and asked to return to Colombia) by National Guard soldiers in the border checkpoint of Paraguachón (Zulia). After 15 hours, the truck was allowed to enter Venezuela. In comparison, the second truck waited only 40 minutes.

Yet, the newsprint is still waiting to finish all customs-related paperwork, and at the time this post is online, it’s still waiting for final approval. At the same time, the GNB seized the camera of Julián Espinoza (press photographer of Colombian paper El Tiempo) and erased its content for allegedly committing “a felony”. No more details were given.

Another journalist who’s covering the journey, Nelson Mata (from Medellin’s El Colombiano) wrote about his experience at Paraguachón. It was pretty obvious that the trip would face trouble when a GNB soldier allegedly told them at first: “So, are you the ones delivering the paper that the Colombian government sent to the opposition?”.

But in part, that was part of Anidiarios’ overall plan. In the words of the current head of Venezuelan Journalists’ Association (CNP) Tinedo Guía: “…if that cargo suffers any restrictions, it will be evidence of the censorship against critical press…”.

This gesture could be just the first of many. During its recent mid-year assembly in Barbados, the Inter-American Press Society (SIP) analyed the Venezuelan case and asked its members to donate newsprint.

UPDATE # 1: Six days have now passed since the 52 tons of newsprint donated by Andiarios is waiting for approval from customs (SENIAT). The Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín spoke about the issue with her Venezuelan counterpart Elias Jaua, who told her that the case was “being processed”. The Colombian embassy in Caracas has sent an envoy to review the situation.

UPDATE # 2: All paperwork is done. The newsprint could be on its way to Barquisimeto and Caracas tomorrow.

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