Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Press Freedom? #4

Reporters Without Borders condemns Guyana government
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

PARIS, France: Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Guyanese government's withdrawal of virtually all state advertising from the Stabroek News, the country's leading privately-owned daily, and its refusal to respond to the initiatives taken by the newspaper in response to this discriminatory measure.

"Governments must not allocate advertising to some news media as a reward, and withdraw it from others as a punishment - this is spelled out in the Chapultepec Declaration, which Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo himself signed," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Unfortunately, the government's silence in the face of the Stabroek News' legitimate demands suggests that the newspaper is being financially penalised because of its editorial positions," the press freedom organisation added.

"The government must provide an explanation and if it is slow to do so, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should instruct it to provide one."The Stabroek News, which is critical of the Jagdeo government, said its earnings from state advertising (government announcements, ministerial press releases etc) had declined sharply since November, three months after Jagdeo's reelection as president.

The Guyana Press Association and the Stabroek News accused Nanda Gopaul, permanent secretary at the office of the president, of ordering the Government Information Agency (GINA) not to assign any more advertising to the newspaper.

The GINA subsequently confirmed that only Guyana Revenue Authority advertisements were henceforth to be placed with the Stabroek News.The newspaper's editor, David de Caires, said he never received any reply to his request for a meeting with GINA director Prem Misir.

De Caires wrote to Misir on 3 January claiming that the Stabroek News was being directly attacked "for political reasons," in violation of the March 1994 Chapultepec Declaration on freedom of information and expression, which Jagdeo signed.

Karen Persaud, the person in charge of advertising at GINA, told De Caires on 9 January that his request "has been taken into account but has not yet been examined by the department concerned." De Caires wrote back the next day complaining about this "unclear and unsatisfactory" reply.

He has heard nothing more since then.

Press Fredom ? # 3...Media vs. State

Information about the government’s decision to pull the plug on state advertising in the Stabroek News marks the dawn of a new era in Guyana’s history.

We have seen what has happened in many communist countries, where governments have sought to suppress media that dare to oppose its policies.

Fundamentally, a free press is important in a democracy, but as late the government has sought to chastise the Stabroek News, the only media house known for sound and solid reporting.

Reporters in Guyana have allowed the administration to run a mock of the profession, simply because of disunity that exists even at the Guyana Press Association (GPA).

The Guyana Chronicle and the Kaieteur News live tainted press lives. We have no apologies about that. Some reporters must be blamed also, since many of them are literally in bed with the politicians and can be called upon to report a good story about any of them.

With the exception of Stabroek News and Capitol News, no other media house has taken a stance on an issue without a hidden agenda. At one time the Kaieteur News appeared to be taken a firm position against pornographic pictures of young girls.

Though this is unacceptable, those in high society know why they went after the sons of a popular city business.

There are so many young girls and boys that have been terrorized by serving government ministers, yet no reporter has gone after these people.

Female ministers have trashed males, yet nothing has been reported.

The reporters attend their Christmas parties and yes, snack away at their media conferences.

The media has been bought, so the government is now moving to buy the only independent media house left, the Stabroek News.

Just take a look around and see what eventually happens when one refuses to say all good things about the Jagdeo government…

Roger Moore, gone!

Basil Bradshaw, tamed!

Mark Benschop, jailed!

Clem David, insignificant!

Final word!

Press Freedom? #2

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) notes with deep concern the apparent decision by the Guyana Government to withdraw most advertisements from the privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper.

While, in the context of the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Declaration of Chapultepec; it appears that move could be regarded as a dastardly attack on press freedom; the GPA stands ready to play a meaningful role in having the matter resolved.

The GPA is always mindful of such instances whenever they emerge, having regard to pre-1992 when the then administration had severely curtailed access not only to the State Media by its critics but suffocated the importation of newsprint by newspapers that it had considered virtually enemies of the State.

In this context, we trust that there is no relationship between the alleged decision to cease the placement of most government advertisements in Stabroek News and criticisms by the Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo and the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) in recent months.

The GPA states unequivocally that the occupants of the corridors of power and national decision-making are often under greater scrutiny by the media--the Fourth Estate-- but should not be punished or appear to be punished for it.

Again, having regard to our not so recent past as a country, the GPA is remains vigilant against cowardly acts by governments that seek to use State resources as a weapon against media that are critical of its policies, views and decisions on matters.

The GPA trusts that, as a signatory to the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Declaration of Chapultepec, the government would take every necessary step to revisit its position.

The GPA has already informed the umbrella Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). The Stabroek News' statement and the GPA's initial reaction have been also communicated to Reporters San Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders). An executive meeting of the association would be held very shortly to decide on additional courses of action.

The GPA restates its position that it is prepared to play any meaningful role in acquiring a greater understanding of the government's decision while at the same time ensuring that the viability of the media is preserved and media-freedom is a hall-mark of our evolving democracy.

Press Freedom? #1

The Government Information Agency (GINA) has withdrawn advertisements from Stabroek News on the instructions of Dr Nanda Gopaul, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President.

David de Caires, Editor-in-Chief of the Stabroek News, said today that since the beginning of November 2006, the Advertising Manager Ms P. Cumbermack reported a significant reduction in the booking of advertisements from this agency which handles all the ads of government ministries. Indeed, she later advised that except for advertisements from the Guyana Revenue Authority dealing with the impending Value Added Tax no other bookings were being received from GINA.

Several efforts were made to contact Dr Prem Misir, the Director of GINA, to discuss this matter but he did not accept nor return any telephone calls.

On the 3rd January, 2007 de Caires wrote Dr Misir referring to the cessation of advertisements which had resulted directly from a political directive and stated that this was a direct attack on the newspaper for political reasons and was completely unacceptable. He noted that President Bharrat Jagdeo had signed the declaration of Chapultepec, a famous declaration of free press principles adopted by the Inter American Press Association in Mexico City on March 11, 1994. Clause 7 of that declaration states explicitly that “the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists”.

De Caires requested Dr Misir to “urgently review this new discriminatory policy and that you let me have your written assurance that you will not persist with it.”

On the 9th January, 2007 , a reply was received from Ms Karen Persaud, Advertising Coordinator of the GINA Advertising Unit which referred to the letter and stated that “the issues raised have been acknowledged and have now been presented to the relevant department for review”. On the 10th January, 2007 , de Caires responded as follows: “Your statement that “the issues raised have been acknowledged and have now been presented to the relevant department for review” is unclear and unsatisfactory. We must assume it to mean that Dr Gopaul’s directive to cut off all ministry ads from our newspaper has been withdrawn and that we will now receive an appropriate proportion of these advertisements.

Since that day no ministry advertisements have been received from GINA though several have appeared in the other newspapers. It seems clear there has been no change in policy.

De Caires stated that this decision by the government to withdraw ads constituted an apparent reversal of its policy of respect for freedom of expression and constituted an attack on the free press. He expressed regret that this Government which had when in opposition suffered from restrictions on press freedom had seen it fit to behave in this manner.

He said copies of this release are being be sent to all the local media, the Caribbean newspapers and the International Press Institute, the Commonwealth Press Union and the Inter American Press Association, three organizations dedicated to the preservation of press freedom and of which Stabroek News is a member.

VAT woes...

VAT…VAT…and more VAT.

Since January 2, Guyana has gone VAT crazy and consumers may soon run crazy with all those high prices attributed to the new tax system.

Puri has gone from $80 to $100. Most beverages now cost $20 more. So where is the much talked about and promised reduction in prices? Its somewhere out there, very invisible.

The Government and its “Tax pit bull”, Khursid Sattaur has lied to this nation, choosing instead to cast blame on unscrupulous businesses for the skyrocketing prices. It is true that Guyana, with one of the highest inflation rate in the Caribbean, also has the highest VAT rate of 16 %.

A weaken opposition, unions that have been bought and spineless Guyanese have allowed this administration to persists along this devious path.

CN Sharma seems to be the only one effectively opposing the entire fa├žade. Opposition Leader Robert Corbin has become so insignificant that he has now forced to weigh-in on Sharma’s justice scale by joining a March organized by CN. The march on Saturday did little to drive home the point that Guyanese are vexed about VAT, but another March, this Thursday and Friday will test the strength of the PNCR-1G.

Sharma has shown his worth by using his television station to force the Tax pit bull to scurry down to CNS studios to rebut claims by Sharma about VAT.

Fact is the government said that VAT would replace eight existing Taxes. Instead it has replaced only six. Then they said that VAT will result in massive price reductions…The Mighty Rebel put it best when he said: “All of that was lie…pon de radio and television they telling lies.”

President Bharrat Jagdeo a week before the implementation of the new system announced that there will be some teething problems, but did not say that consumers would have been the ones left with those teeth marks.

Why did he wait so late to express concerns about the implementation of VAT, where were these concerns all the time.

The administration said that VAT was not designed to increase the administration’s coffers. Lie again. If this was true, why not extend the period of stock relief beyond December so that consumers would not have to pay double TAX. The fact is that businesses have to charge VAT, and no businessman in his right senses would remove a Tax that he has already paid from the mark-up price.

There are so many unanswered questions, yet the President seeks to play hide and seek.

Where is the captain of the ship, which has sprung a leak?

Hope he is not off to one of those casinos already?

Consumers are sinking…they are paying the price of a government that has failed to utilize the policing mechanisms in place to collect revenue and stop the smuggling of goods.

Total failure!

Luncheon OK!

Reports suggest that Dr. Luncheon is resting comfortably at home.
However, the PPP/C point man on Local Government Reform, Clinton Collymore has fallen ill.
Who is next?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cat fight or VAT fight

Khurshid Sattaur VS. Gerry Gouveia over the implementation of the Value-Added Tax (VAT)

Any bets?

Dr. Luncheon "falls" ill

It is now 10:00 hrs in Guyana and word is that Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon has been admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) after having to seek urgent medical attention at a private hospital.

Luncheon, who had to be hospitalised in the United States for several weeks last year, was rushed t ot the private hospital this morning after he collapsed at home.

Officials say that the government henchman's condition was stabalised and he was later transferred to the GPHC where he is resting comfortably...

More details in a few.