Reporters Without Borders condemns the Guyanese government’s withdrawal of virtually all state advertising from the Stabroek News, thereby penalising the daily for its editorial positions. The organisation urges the government to explain itself.
Guyana’s leading daily, The Stabroek News, has learned it is now under a total effective boycott by state advertisers after the Government Information Agency (GINA) on 6 February cancelled advertising space booked in the paper for the Guyana Revenue Authority. Since November 2006, this was the last body still placing advertising in the Stabroek News.
Public companies, but under private management, Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) and Guyana Power and Light have also decided not to advertise with the paper. The management of the two companies, while denying having acted on the orders of GINA, did not offer any explanation. The government itself referred only to “accounting reasons” before refusing to respond to protests from the Guyana Press Association.
The Stabroek News takes a strong critical line towards the government of President Bharrat Jagdeo. Reporters Without Borders reminded the president that the Chapultepec Declaration on freedom of information and expression, which he has signed, commits him not to use state advertising as a means of rewarding or punishing media.
16.01.07 - Government punishes critical newspaper by withdrawing state advertising
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the Guyanese government’s withdrawal of virtually all state advertising from the Stabroek News, the country’s leading privately-owned daily, and its refusal to respond to the initiatives taken by the newspaper in response to this discriminatory measure.
“Governments must not allocate advertising to some news media as a reward, and withdraw it from others as a punishment - this is spelled out in the Chapultepec Declaration, which Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo himself signed,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Unfortunately, the government’s silence in the face of the Stabroek News’ legitimate demands suggests that the newspaper is being financially penalised because of its editorial positions,” the press freedom organisation added. “The government must provide an explanation and if it is slow to do so, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should instruct it to provide one.”
The Stabroek News, which is critical of the Jagdeo government, said its earnings from state advertising (government announcements, ministerial press releases etc) had declined sharply since November, three months after Jagdeo’s reelection as president.
The Guyana Press Association and the Stabroek News accused Nanda Gopaul, permanent secretary at the office of the president, of ordering the Government Information Agency (GINA) not to assign any more advertising to the newspaper. The GINA subsequently confirmed that only Guyana Revenue Authority advertisements were henceforth to be placed with the Stabroek News.
The newspaper’s editor, David de Caires, said he never received any reply to his request for a meeting with GINA director Prem Misir. De Caires wrote to Misir on 3 January claiming that the Stabroek News was being directly attacked “for political reasons,” in violation of the March 1994 Chapultepec Declaration on freedom of information and expression, which Jagdeo signed.
Karen Persaud, the person in charge of advertising at GINA, told De Caires on 9 January that his request “has been taken into account but has not yet been examined by the department concerned.” De Caires wrote back the next day complaining about this “unclear and unsatisfactory” reply. He has heard nothing more since then.