GPA disappointed over President’s approval of conditional boycott for media

…as PPP slams Govt’s duplicity on State ads, fairness, impartiality

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) has come out in criticism of recent statements made by President David Granger, in which he said that State ads should be given to media houses based on fairness and balance.

In a statement on Saturday, the GPA expressed disappointment in the President’s statements. The President’s statement was made during an interview on a local radio programme. However, this did not go down well with members of the media fraternity in Guyana.

“The gist of the President’s remarks appears to be that the allocation of paid State advertising is contingent upon favourable coverage of his administration,” GPA said, adding that Granger’s statements do not differ from previous problems the association encountered.

GPA President Nazima Raghubir

According to the GPA, it has always been the body’s position, which is in keeping with international thinking on this matter, that State advertising should neither be employed as a form of reward nor as punishment for perceived media transgressions.

While Granger did say on the radio programme that State ads should be given to media houses based on fairness, in the same breath, he contradicted himself by saying that he did not support the withholding of State ads.

“President Granger said he does not support the withholding of ads and the GPA encourages the Government to examine how all media houses can benefit from such ads,” the Press Association said.

“In this very critical time in Guyana, when all should be informed, media houses ought to be reminded of their need to provide the truth and fact-based journalism. Editorial activism has its place but citizens’ right to be informed must always triumph,” it added.

Mere hours after the GPA released its statement on the issue, Ministry of the Presidency called for the Association to retract its statement. It denied that the President was seeking “favourable” coverage for his Government while continuing to call for “fair” coverage.

Duplicity

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), in a statement on its social media, also called the President out by claiming that his calls for fair coverage run counter to content put out by the State media. According to the Party, such content is anything but fair.

“The recent statement by the Ministry of the Presidency, attacking the Guyana Press Association over its comments about the withholding of State advertisements from the private media houses, exposes the hypocrisy of the APNU/AFC coalition,” the PPP said.

The PPP noted that while the David Granger-led coalition insists that the placement of State advertisements should be based on fair coverage, it continues to use the State media – the Guyana Chronicle, the Department of Public Information (DPI) and national radio stations – as its propaganda arm.

The issue of sections of the media being deprived of State ads raised its ugly head after complaints were made by Guyana Times and Stabroek news. In the case of this publication, advertisements generated through DPI reached an all-time low by the end of October. In fact, in the month of September, this newspaper only received one ad from the DPI and none in October.

President David Granger

This issue of declining ads from the DPI, through which many of the State’s ads pass, was raised in a letter sent to the Director of DPI, Imran Khan, by this publication. The letter, dated October 23, 2019, outlined that since an earlier letter in August 2019 regarding outstanding balances owed to Guyana Times, the number of ads that were once received from the DPI is no longer forthcoming.

“This is a cause of great concern for us, as comparatively, based on the information released by your agency, the Guyana Times newspaper received on average only 10 per cent of the State advertisements. That percentage reflects an already minuscule allocation to the Guyana Times newspaper,” the letter stated.

The correspondence further pointed out that after the first letter was sent in August, the publication only received a total of $20,930 in ads from the State agency in September. This, it was outlined, is against the backdrop of advertisements being proliferated consistently to the other dailies, especially to the State-owned Guyana Chronicle and Kaieteur News, during the same period.

To compound matters, DPI had racked up a total debt of $11.4 million for the period of March 2019 to the end of September 2019. This newspaper was promised a payment of $900,000 from a total amount of $1.4 million owed for the month of March 2019. That part payment of $900,000 has since been received.