Venezuelan journalists protest over paper shortage

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Journalists and journalism students protested on one of Caracas' avenues Tuesday to demand the government auction off dollars to allow newspapers to buy newsprint after nine regional dailies shut down.

About a hundred reporters and students protested in front of the National Center for Foreign Trade, which sells currency. "The press is in agony, help Venezuela," they shouted.

Miguel Henrique Otero, editor-in-chief of El Nacional, one of Venezuela's largest circulation dailies, earlier said that the newspaper had only enough paper reserves to last until February.

Many journalists have accused authorities of wanting a newsprint shortage to silence newspapers, which provide one of the last bastions for criticism of the leftist government after a crackdown on broadcasters in recent years.

The officials, however, denied the allegation and questioned if newspapers are hoarding paper as part of what they call the political opposition's "economic war" to destabilize the government.

"There is an emergency situation that must be resolved immediately," said Marco Ruiz, secretary general of the National Press Workers Syndicate.

Ruiz said several major papers are in danger or shutting down in the coming weeks.

A good part of Latin America's newspapers import paper from Canada. But the purchases require dollars and the Venezuelan government has restricted access to dollars for 11 years.

Ruiz said authorities have promised to provide him with information on the issue in the coming days.

He said that if authorities don't give an adequate response, journalists will hold more street protests in front of government buildings. (AP)

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