President David Granger’s problems are mounting. Ironically, his greatest difficulties stem more from within his government than outside of it.
The latest embarrassment and disgrace which the President faces is the charge by the Stabroek News that there is an attempt to muzzle the newspaper by the withholding of state advertisements by the Department of Public Information, an agency of the government.
Stabroek News has complained that since July there has been a decline in state ads received, relative to that which is being provided to Kaieteur News and the Guyana Chronicle. It views this reduction as part of policy to punish it.
Stabroek News has since July been highly critical of the Granger administration for its violations of the Constitution and his failure to name a date for the holding of elections. The newspaper has ran a number of sharp front-page commentaries, highly critical of the government. The public will draw associations between the reduction in ads and vigorous editorial criticisms of the government by the newspaper.
The Department of Public Information yesterday issued a cock and bull response to the charges made by Stabroek News. It says that Stabroek News has been in receipt of substantial advertisements from the agency over the past year. It also contends that it was Stabroek News which wrote to the agency indicating that it was refusing to take advertisements.
This explanation by the DPI is an insult to the intelligence of the average citizen. It is most unbecoming of a government agency. The Stabroek News had explained that it was owed money by the DPI. In the month of May, it wrote to the agency indicating that unless there was a substantial reduction by the DPI of the sums owed, it would not be accepting new ads.
This is a policy that all newspapers adopt when large sums are owed to them. Newspapers are forced to refuse to carry new ads from those who owe them large sums, unless these persons or agencies reduce their indebtedness.
The debt was reduced in June and the newspaper began to accept new ads but found that the placements were far less than what was being given to other newspapers. The DPI’s explanation, therefore, is cock and bull. It embarrasses the government. The action taken in restricting advertisements to Stabroek News places the government in the same league as the PPPC under Jagdeo.
It was under Jagdeo that state advertisements were withheld from the Stabroek News. Advertisements were withdrawn on the grounds that funds for government advertising were limited and therefore the government had to seek value for money and utilize commercial criteria for the placement of ads. It said that it was obligated to support the state-owned newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle and it would provide ads to Kaieteur News since this was the leading newspaper.
Kaieteur News took a principled stand. It took the position that the placement of ads should be based on commercial considerations. Kaieteur News, itself was denied any government advertisements for the first ten years of its existence. It therefore had no reason to support a discriminatory policy.
The position adopted by Kaieteur News had soured relations with Stabroek News. There are persons within that newspaper who have never forgiven Kaieteur News for arguing for ads to be based on commercial considerations.
The Jagdeo administration eventually reversed its ban of ads to the Staborek News. But it did this to pave the way to provide ads to the then newly-established Guyana Times.
The PNCR, in opposition, was highly critical of the withdrawal of ads to the Stabroek News. It is now being accused of doing the very things which it condemned twelve years ago when it was in opposition.
Kaieteur News does not support the reduction in ads to Stabroek News. Glenn Lall, the publisher of the Kaieteur News, has made it clear that despite the cold- shoulder shown to him by Stabroek News, he will stand beside it in its row with the government. He believes that what is being done by the government is wrong and should be corrected. He will not support any withholding of ads to the Stabroek News. He condemns the actions taken by the government and calls on President Granger to clarify state policy on government ads.
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