‘SN has capitulated to the Jagdeo regime’

Dear Editor,
I have noted Kaieteur News’s notice to readers detailing a nefarious, systematic Government of Guyana campaign to strangle KN by drastically decreasing or withdrawing government advertising as a punitive measure. I have also scrutinized the following statistics which they published on the percentages of Government of Guyana advertisements which were placed in newspapers in Guyana from April 18 to April 24, 2010: Guyana Chronicle – 35.9%, Stabroek News 32.1%, Guyana Times: 18.5%, Kaieteur News: 13.5%.

When the PPP government withdrew its ads from Stabroek News three-and-a-half years ago, President Bharrat Jagdeo stridently argued to the nation as well as to me personally and a group of Guyanese with whom he met during the Caricom summit in New York, that his government had withdrawn ads from Stabroek News and had placed them in the Kaieteur News instead, because Kaieteur News by far had the widest circulation among all newspapers in Guyana.

So, what has changed from then to now? This level of decline in government advertisements to Kaieteur has a direct correlation to Kaieteur News’s continual exposure of corruption, malfeasance, criminality and impropriety in the Jagdeo regime, and its sustained policy of investigative reporting that demands governmental accountability.

Suffice it to say that conversely, the editors at Stabroek News made a calculated decision to capitulate to the Jagdeo regime and have stunningly become the biggest apologist and appeaser of the Guyana government, all in the name of the almighty dollar. On the other hand, a cursory analysis of Stabroek’s publications would establish that it freely publishes the most vile and baseless of criticisms of the political opposition, as well as opposition and African Guyanese leaders.

It is incontestable that, in the period immediately preceding the reinstatement of government ads, and thereafter, Stabroek News strangely pivoted and began to parrot government diatribe without due vigilance or without applying the most basic of journalistic standards. Con-comitantly, Stabroek, without hesitancy, now actively censors free speech, by blocking criticism or exposure of criminal, racist or discriminatory conduct of government ministers and officials, so as to appease the PPP. The obvious quid pro quo for their action, is the massive influx of government ads. In the process, Stabroek has conclusively given efficacy to the adage ‘make a deal with the devil and you will survive,’ and have compromised press freedom, journalistic integrity and professionalism.

The aforementioned not-withstanding, I wish to pointedly ask President Jagdeo the following question: Since he told the nation, and me personally, that Kaieteur News has the largest circulation in Guyana, and since he previously used this rationale to divert government ads from Stabroek News to Kaieteur News, what is the reason for the current withdrawal and diversion of government ads from the newspaper with the largest circulation?

Yours faithfully,
Rickford Burke

Editor’s note

Stabroek News went without state advertising for seventeen months and made no compromise with the government during that period, and has made no compromise since. To do so would run counter to the principles on which we were founded, and those principles are still the ones by which the editors are guided.

At the time GINA ads were returned to us, we were given no explanation either formal or informal for the government’s change in direction, although we believed we knew what the reason was. That reason was put forward in a subsequent editorial, where we said the government’s volte-face on the issue almost certainly had its origin in the fact that they wanted to give state ads to the Guyana Times. Since the withdrawal had been founded on the spurious argument of circulation, they would have had difficulty defending the withholding of ads from us, while giving them to a complete newcomer in the market.

Since the restoration of ads, we have monitored the distribution of state advertising to the four dailies, and it was ourselves, therefore, and not KN that on October 4, 2009, drew attention to the fact that in September of that year GT which had been in the market for about a year, was already receiving 19.5% of the state ads, and that KN  had fallen below this figure to 18%. This information was published in a report in the Sunday Stabroek of the above date, and an editorial on the subject followed on October 5, 2009.

That editorial said (among other things) the following: “The statistic is important for three reasons. First, it shreds to bits what the government had paraded as its policy at the point that all GINA ads were withdrawn from the Stabroek News in November 2006. Second, it is a classic example of unfair competition. Third, the allocation is a flagrant abuse of taxpayers’ funds.”

The editorial ends with a reference to the Declaration of Chapúltepec in relation to press freedom, to which this government signed on.

In other words, we drew attention to the issue of the distribution of state ads as early as last year as a matter of principle, even though KN was seemingly not aware of it at that stage, and was more affected by it than we were.

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