In light of reports that Government has cut the amount of advertisements usually given to the Stabroek News compared to some other national newspapers, former President and current Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has stated that all private media outfits should benefit equally from the State ads.
The Stabroek News has complained that since July, there has been a “significant” decline in the amount of state ads it receives when compared to Kaieteur News and the State-owned Guyana Chronicle – a move which it says is an attempt to muzzle the media entity.
But speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo said, “I think all private media, regardless of where they stand, that they enjoy State [ads]”.
Jagdeo, who himself had come under for doing the same under his presidency, admitted that his approach was wrong at that time.
“We said… more ads will go to the newspapers that had the highest circulation. At that time, it was Kaieteur News and so [that newspaper] was a beneficiary of that. In retrospect, it maybe the wrong decision and I’m saying this today,” he asserted.
Based on his past decisions on this matter, the Opposition Leader noted that going forward, a new People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration will have a new approach in this regard.
“Looking forward, I think we must have, in the new government, an arrangement where all the private media benefit from State assets. State ads must not be used in a punitive manner. I did not do it in a punitive sense but notwithstanding that I think it was wrong,” Jagdeo posited.
In an article on Sunday, Stabroek News suggested that this reduction in the placement of ads by the Department of Public Information (DPI) may have been a move to target the newspaper for “its forthright views on the government’s defiance of the motion of no confidence and the requirement for early general elections to be held”.
The newspaper had been critical of the coalition Government for violating the Constitution of Guyana by failing to resign and set a date for elections following the June 18 ruling and subsequent orders on July 10 by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which had validated the December passage of the No-Confidence Motion.
“An analysis of the ads placed in the four daily newspapers over the last six months has shown a sharp decline in the number of State ads placed per column inches in Stabroek News as of June 2019. There has been no corresponding decline in the Guyana Chronicle or Kaieteur News but a decline has been noted in the Guyana Times,” the newspaper reported.
Stabroek News said it had written the DPI in May about a large outstanding debt for State ads and advised that no new placements would be accepted until a substantial amount was settled. After settlement of a substantial portion of the debt, the publication advised DPI that it can resume normal placement of ads but overtime, observed that the numbers were significantly low.
However, in response to Stabroek News’ complaint, the DPI said the “blockade” imposed by Stabroek News resulted in Government seeking alternative sources to advertise. It said digital media, television stations and radio are giving Government “greater value”.