Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Venezuela has asked the government to resolve the shortage of newsprint, which has crippled several newspapers in the oil-rich country. Cardinal Urosa Savino added that Venezuela's Constitution guarantees the right to a free press. He also stressed that media are "very important" in a free and democratic society.
It was during the opening session of the Commission of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference on January 22, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, who is to be beatified this year on October 26, according to Vatican sources.
Cardinal Urosa Savino, who is also the archbishop of Caracas, told reporters, "It is necessary that the country has channels of communication able to report what is happening, and Venezuelans should enjoy the right to be informed of what is happening in and out of the country." Only sincere dialogue without making political distinctions, said the cardinal, will provide solutions to Venezuela's many problems.
Cardinal Urosa Savino also told reporters during the conference that "the closure of a newspaper is something terrible! We cannot sink into the darkness of misinformation, this problem must be solved as soon as possible." Among the newspapers most affected by the paper shortage are: "El Nacional" and "El Nuevo País" in Caracas; "El Correo del Caroni" and "El Pulse" in Barquisimeto; and "Ultimas Noticias." Some newspapers have been forced to reduce the size of their editions, or print less frequently. Some have only three weeks' worth of paper on hand.
Venezuelan journalists have accused the government, under President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, of restricting access to newsprint as a way of squelching dissent. Newspapers are now the only form of media in Venezuela that regularly demonstrates to the government, following crackdowns on radio and television outlets.