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Government's withdrawal of advertising threatens survival of "Stabroek News"

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 25 may 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA protests discrimination in Guyana

MIAMI, Florida (May 25, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today gave its support to an open call by the news media in Guyana for the government of President Bharrat Jagdeo to reconsider its position and end its discrimination in the placement of official advertising.

Electronic and print media in Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean on May 24 issued a joint statement in support of press freedom in that country. The document said that since November 1, 2006 the government of Guyana had withdrawn advertisements for some 29 government ministries, agencies and state-owned corporations from the Stabroek News and it called upon the government "to reconsider its position in this matter."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, on behalf of the organization, supported the statement and quoted an IAPA resolution declaring that "several governments, institutions and public enterprises in the hemisphere use government advertising as a tool to reward or punish media outlets without considering any technical guidelines or mass effectiveness in the use of public funds."

"These discriminatory practices, often used in reprisal for a news outlet's editorial policies, must be denounced and repudiated," added Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre.

According to the joint statement, a team of regional media representatives was appointed to seek a solution to the problem and met in February with President Jagdeo on St. Vincent island in the Caribbean.

The group offered to advise on and assist with the setting up of a fair system for the distribution of government advertisements. But by May, the team concluded that the government was not willing to settle the matter and that the withdrawal of official advertising from the Stabroek News had been unfair and put the commercial viability of the newspaper at risk.

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