Venezuela forces El Nacional to stop the presses

  1. Paper was hit by government-backed lawsuits, tax reviews and ad restrictions
  2. Publisher Miguel Otero was forced to leave Venezuela years ago to avoid persecution

“75 years of resistance went away on a night defined by a hiatus. The cessation of the Venezuelan newspaper of reference’s print edition is an unprecedented event. The nostalgic atmosphere can be perceived in the headquarters’ corridors. There were smiles for more than seven decades of achievements, but there were also sad faces for not having any other deadline to meet again.”

The first paragraph of the article published Friday, 14 Dec. 2018 by El Nacional showed how its journalists and workers felt before the fait accompli. Lack of paper, political pressures and the country’s economic devastation left the respected Venezuelan print bereft, with only its lengthy history to keep.

“In the newsroom, a few last keys clicked to prepare the last issue where they tried to fight for the truth. No one wanted the clock’s hands to indicate eight o’clock, a fixed time in the core of the installations when the cylinders began to roll, to print the last effort for independent journalism,” says the article penned by Jackelin Díaz Lándazabal.

The newspaper faced serious problems since 2013, when the Nicolás Maduro government created a corporation that monopolized the trade of newsprint.

More than half of the 134 newspapers that were circulating then in Venezuela ended circulation according to Espacio Público, an NGO that advocates press freedom.

Audiovisual media have not been oblivious to what the National Union of Workers of the Press (SNTP) called “escalation” against freedom of expression. In 2017, 52 radio stations and eight TV stations went off air, including CNN en Español.

“It’s a big pain, but it’s a pain that we’ve been preparing for. We resisted for longer than we thought,” said editor Hilda Lugo.

Upon learning of the changes to come, editors and reporters in the Caracas newsroom said they were undaunted, ready to press ahead and continue bringing critical news to readers via their online edition.

“They won’t beat us. We’re not defeated,” said general manager Jorge Makriniotis, who recalled growing up with the paper in his family’s home. “It’s important to note that.”

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