>> This is the News Room of El National, Venezuela's last independent newspaper. A bare bones staff is toiling away hours before the paper goes to print. But the reporters and editors aren't just working against the clock, like at a typical newspaper, they're working against an increasingly authoritarian government.
And in recession hit Venezuela, a sheer lack of raw materials. Reuters' correspondent Angus Berick explains.>> Printing the 75 year old paper has become a daily struggle for its journalists, given that government impose currency controls have had strangled imports into the country. And this has meant that newsprint, ink, and printing equipment has become ever harder to get a hold of.
Instead, El Nacional has relied on buying paper from sympathetic media outlets abroad and shipping this in by boat.>> As a result, El National circulation has dwindled to just 20,000 copies of a paper known for infuriating the ruling socialist party.>> It's the only newspaper that talks about the humanitarian crisis of the political parties, and all those topics that the government ignores.
>> The paper recently made a particularly powerful enemy, one of President Nicolas Maduro's top lieutenants, Diosdado Cabello, who sued El Nacional for re-publishing a report that he was under investigation by US authorities for drug trafficking. The paper maintains the report was accurate, but Cabeo denies any involvement, and a Venezuelan court issued a massive fine for libel against El Nacional, which is being appealed.
According to Venezuela's National Journalism Association, almost three quarters of the country's newspapers have closed during the five year recession. And 40 radio stations were shuttered in 2017, citing license irregularities. Meanwhile, Cabello's TV show criticizing news stories that he claims are biased, is still on the air.