It is encouraging that the Guyana government has heeded informed national, regional and international opinion on the Stabroek News issue.
The challenge of the advertising boycott highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of press freedom and the conditions that either promote or endanger its development.
It is a cause best supported by constant vigil and dispassionate examination and analysis. At its very core lies the welfare and well-being of Caribbean people at a time of social crisis. It is thus a cause for everyone to embrace, not just journalists and other media workers.
The principles that guide the placement of official advertising are well established.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, states clearly that, “the arbitrary and discriminatory placement of official advertising … with the intent to put pressure on and punish or reward and provide privileges to social communicators and communications media because of the opinions they express threaten freedom of expression” and must be explicitly prohibited by law.
STABROEK NEWS STORY
Govt resumes advertising with Stabroek News
April 9, 2008
The state through the Government Information Agency (GINA) has resumed advertising with Stabroek News, placing its first order in 17 months yesterday morning.
Stabroek News’ Advertising Manager Patricia Cumbermack said GINA Media Coordinator Karen Persaud telephoned her yesterday morning to make arrangements to start purchasing advertising space in this newspaper once again. No reason for the decision was given to Cumbermack.The first order was for an eight inches by three columns advertisement for the Com-munity Services Enhance-ment Project which is administered by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development.
Asked for a comment, Editor-in-Chief David de Caires said that a very senior government official had rung him on Friday and indicated that Stabroek News would begin receiving ads from ministries and other agencies starting this week.
“No reason was given for the change in policy,” he said. Nevertheless, he welcomed the change in the government’s position.
Government, through GINA, first withdrew ads from 29 ministries and state agencies in November 2006 citing economic considerations. It placed ads with the country’s two other dailies, the state-owned Guyana Chronicle and the privately owned Kaieteur News as well as the weekly Mirror, which is aligned to the ruling party.
Following this move other government and state-owned entities, which previously advertised independently of GINA also withdrew ads, including the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Office of the Auditor General, the Guyana Sugar Corporation, the Guyana Power and Light and the regional administrations.
Stabroek News objected to this move, contending that the withdrawal of the ads was because of the newspaper’s editorial stance on issues of governance. This newspaper sought to have the ads re-instated but to no avail.
The withdrawal of the ads was widely condemned locally by a number of entities and individuals including the Guyana Press Association, opposition political parties, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Private Sector Commission and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association.
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) and regional media houses, as well as international media organisations, including the Inter-American Press Asso-ciation, the Commonwealth Press Union, the International Press Institute, and Reporters Without Borders had asked the government to restore the ads to this newspaper.
The cut-off also saw Stabroek News’ employees picketing a meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers in Georgetown last year. Last month, the Inter-American Press Association wrote to Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington asking for the cut-off to be placed on the agenda of the meeting of Caricom Heads in Trinidad last Saturday.
Efforts by a regional mediating team to end the boycott via an offer to craft a mechanism for the distribution of state advertising also failed.