February 16, 2007
Jagdeo not moving on Starbroek issue

Guyana’s President remains unmovable; his government’s decision to pull advertisements from the daily Stabroek News was a business decision and not even a meeting with a high powered media delegation earlier this week could have altered this conviction.

During a break of the 18th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Heads of Government of CARICOM here earlier this week, President Jagdeo met with representatives of the Caribbean Media, who expressed concern and sought clarification on his Government’s decision to pull its advertisements from Stabroek News.{{more}}

At the meeting, President Jagdeo explained that the switching of the majority of Government advertisements from Stabroek News to the Kaieteur News was not a freedom of the press issue but a decision based on economic value; determined by the newspaper’s circulation.

He reiterated this position when he spoke to SEARCHLIGHT. “It was purely a commercial decision, Kaieteur News is not pro-Government, so it was just a matter of more value for money,” said President Jagdeo.

He said that he was disappointed as to how the media had dealt with the story from the beginning of the issue.

“It was a bit unfair, they only highlighted Stabroek’s position,” he said, adding that this was the reason why he was glad for the opportunity to meet media representatives so that he could clear the air on the issue.

President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers Dale Enoch told SEARCHLIGHT that he felt there was a glimmer of hope that the issue could yet be resolved.

Enoch said that while Jagdeo quoted statistics which he said proved that Stabroek News has been declining in circulation, there was no way of proving the accuracy of those statistics.

He further said that even though the statistics are accurate, a Government cannot just look at figures when it came to the distribution of state funds. He said that he also believes that no Government would want accusations of media muzzling hanging over their heads.

President Bharrat Jagdeo however explained that his Government doesn’t have the resources to place advertisements in every newspaper and on every television station.

“So it is crucial that we examine where the best value would be, it is really as simple as that,” Jagdeo said.

“It is my Government which brought back true press freedom to Guyana and we will never try to censor a newspaper by withholding advertisements, we wouldn’t,” said President Jagdeo.

The delegation that met with the Guyanese leader included Harold Hoyte of One Caribbean Media, Newton James of The Gleaner Group of Jamaica, veteran independent Journalist Rickey Singh and Dale Enoch.

Editor-in-Chief of the Stabroek News, David de Caires was quoted recently as saying “this is further confirmation of the determination to discriminate against this newspaper. They have cancelled existing ads that have been booked already. It is strange.”