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Venezuela press freedoms at risk, press group warns

October 9, 2014

Venezuela is on the verge of becoming a “second Cuba” in terms of press freedom with the imminent closure of one of its last independent newspapers, a regional press group warned Thursday.

The Inter-American Press Association said the imminent closure of the Tal Cual newspaper’s print edition is “cinching almost completely the siege of the critical or independent press in Venezuela,” which has struggled to survive under the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The Venezuelan daily said this week it has only enough newsprint to publish for two more weeks, leaving it with a digital edition.

Independent newspapers have suffered because the government has shut off access to dollars needed to import newsprint.

“Other newspapers have already halted operations and those that are left have either been sold to friends of the powers that be, or have reduced pages to the absolute minimum, such as El Nacional,” said Claudio Paolillo, the head of IAPA’s press freedoms committee.

The Miami-based press group represents editors and publishers of newspapers throughout the Western hemisphere.

“Venezuela, with all its TV channels already under government control, along with most radio stations, is decidedly on a path to become the second Cuba in Latin America in terms of freedom of the press,” Paolillo said in a statement.

Paolillo, an Uruguayan, rebuked the Organization of American States and its member countries for not denouncing “this most serious attack by the authoritarian Chavista regime of Nicolas Maduro on one of the most basic human rights of Venezuelan citizens.”

The statement comes just days after the Venezuelan Press and Society Institute warned in a report of a rise in self-censorship by Venezuelan journalists, to avoid reprisals or because their news organizations will not publish their work.

The IAPA has been a frequent critic of the erosion of press freedoms in Venezuela, which the government dismisses, accusing the group of being an “instrument of right-wing newspapers.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.