Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has called for the boycott of media that are highly critical of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), a call that has been stoutly rejected by the country’s two major daily newspapers.
“Please ensure that our people don’t buy newspapers where the sole purpose of the newspaper is to destroy your party,” he said.
His call followed claims by party General Secretary, Clement Rohee that reporters of the privately-owned Kaieteur News and Stabroek News have been instructed to stick with the government’s propaganda line.
But the Editors-in-Chief of the Stabroek and Kaieteur News newspapers said Thursday that they were hardly worried about the boycott call. Stabroek News’ Anand Persaud labelled Jagdeo’s assertion as “ridiculous” and said he was unsurprised and unconcerned about the boycott call. “Boycotts- the PPP has targeted Stabroek News for ten or fifteen years. We are still here and we will continue to be here so we are not scared by any suggestion of a boycott,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
“The bottom-line is that the readers decide what they like and if the readers want the paper they are going to buy it, if they are offended by the paper they are going to leave it so Jagdeo can call for what he wants,” Kaieteur News’ Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris told Demerara Waves Online News. Harris accused Jagdeo of engaging in naked self-interest by seeking to promote the Guyana Times newspaper. “He is a big shareholder in Guyana Times so he is just promoting himself, he wants people to buy his newspaper,” he said.
Persaud and Harris also dismissed Rohee’s claims that reporters have been instructed to toe the propaganda line of the coalition-led government and said they were committed to fair coverage.
Jagdeo and Rohee were speakers Monday night at a symposium held on the lawns of Red House to mark the 23rd Anniversary under the theme “Achievement since October 5th 1992; Democracy under threat since May 11th 2015,”
Jagdeo argued that it made no sense party supporters spend their money on media “that would destroy us.” “Buy media that would be sympathetic and that would carry our perspective. They can’t want our money and then also want to use the same thing that we are buying to spread falsehoods about us,” he said.
Instead, the Opposition Leader urged attendees that they buy the Mirror, Guyana Times and other media that are sympathetic to the PPP.
Under Jagdeo’s presidency, the government had stopped placing advertisements in the Stabroek News in clear violation of the Declaration of Chapultepec which was adopted by the Organisation of American States hemishperic conference on Free Speech Mexico City March 11, 1994. The reason that he had given was that Kaieteur News had had a larger circulation compared to Stabroek.
The ads were restored only after Jagdeo’s friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi Ramroop, started up Guyana Times newspaper in which numerous government advertisements had been placed. Government had also advertised in the poorly circulated Mirror, a publication of the then governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Jagdeo’s call for a boycott of Guyana’s two leading newspapers is almost identical to a similar call by then leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) that supporters must stop buying the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper.
Sources said that as a result of that call, the Guyana Chronicle continues to suffer from poor circulation of about 4,000 copies daily, down from about more than 15,000 back in the 1990s.