Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa announced on Thursday it was suspending its print edition due to customs refusing to release its paper imports at a time when the government is accused of repressing opponents.
La Prensa was the only national independent daily newspaper remaining in circulation but from Friday will be available only online.
Nicaragua is gearing up for a general election in November but since the beginning of June, authorities have detained 32 opposition figures, including seven with aspirations of challenging President Daniel Ortega, who is seeking a fourth successive term.
Since Ortega came to power in 2007, at least 20 independent media have disappeared due to confiscations of raw materials and forced closures, according to the Central American nation’s business union.
“La Prensa has been left without paper to continue circulation at a national level because the National Directorate of Customs is holding hostage the company’s primary material property,” the newspaper said.
Its front page was dominated by the words: “The dictatorship is holding our paper, but it cannot hide the truth.”
Customs is demanding the payment of tariffs to release the materials despite a provision in the constitution that excepts the press from such taxes.
It is not the first time customs has caused an independent newspaper to fall.
Three years ago the Nuevo Diario, one of the newspapers most critical of Ortega, announced it had published its last edition because of a year-long government blockade of its newsprint imports.
Between 2018 and February 2020, customs retained 92 tons of press materials.
Most of the media that have disappeared did so after the violent crackdown in 2018 of anti-government protests that left at least 328 people dead and 2,000 injured, according to rights groups.