Jagdeo says he was ‘wrong’ to cut ads from Stabroek News
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo said his Government’s decision to cut state advertisements to Stabroek News in 2006 was “wrong” as he now calls for a method to be implemented through which private media entities will be guaranteed state ads.
“I am saying this today. In retrospect, it may be the wrong decision,” Jagdeo told reporters at his Church Street, Georgetown office.
Stabroek News on September 29 complained that the Department of Public Information (DPI) has significantly cut the placement of state advertisement “to muzzle the newspaper.”
The entity’s Editor-in-Chief Anand Persaud likened the situation to what was experienced in 2006 when the Jagdeo administration withdrew ads from the newspaper.
Addressing his weekly press conference on issues relating to press freedom, the Opposition Leader was asked about the position he took during his presidency.
Jagdeo sought to defend his position noting that the Government chose the newspaper which was in higher circulation at that time, the Kaieteur Newspaper.
“State ads must not be used in a punitive manner…I did not do in a punitive sense but notwithstanding that, I think it was wrong,” the Opposition Leader said.
“I think there should be some way to ensure that all private media regardless of where they stand…that they enjoy state asset. It is not…me saying this because I have a history on this matter but looking forward… I think we must have in the new Government, a system which guarantees state ads to private media entities,” he added.
Additionally, Jagdeo also called for more balanced reporting from state-owned media entities –the National Communications Network, Guyana Chronicle and DPI –leading up to the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.
He referred to the European Commission for Democracy and law which states that there should be equal access to mass media and means of telecommunications for every candidate and party participating in the elections campaign.
“The date has been set, we’re an election mode, the behaviour of these entities should change,” Jagdeo stated.
Jagdeo said the unequal access to media will affect the fair part of elections as he further accused the coalition of abusing state resources. As such, he said letters will be sent to the entities to gain access or air time after which the international community will be informed of the party’s concerns.
“I am not expecting that there will be 50/50 because knowing there is some benefit in incumbency, there will have some benefits in the state media but when you start utilising $2B of state money to campaign…when you’re using state media for your party purposes, this affects the fair part of elections.”
Leading up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections, similar concerns were raised by the then opposition parties, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change.