Free online edition of Stabroek News ends

Blaming mounting administrative costs and the refusal of government to advertize with it, a Guyanese newspaper announced plans as the week started to surcharge readers viewing its online decision, making it one of the first in the Caribbean trade bloc to do so.

Founded in late 1986, the mainstream Stabroek News newspaper did not indicate a fee in its Page One announcement but said readers will have to pay the unspecified amount from December 1 for access to its Web service. It also did not say what system will be used for readers to pay, whether by credit, debit card, subscription or cash.

“The decision to begin charging for content is premised on two grounds: withdrawal by the government of all state advertizing in the Stabroek News and the continuing rise in operating costs faced by all newspapers,” it said.

The paper said that this is the second time in three years that the Bharrat Jagdeo administration has withdrawn advertizing in its daily hard-copy edition, saying that the only difference this time is that most of the private newspapers are affected rather than Stabroek alone.

Authorities have been roundly criticized for announcing plans to place government ads — even those relating to general elections expected next year, online and despite the fact that most of the country does not have access to high-peed, broadband internet. The papers have accused government of simply spiting them.

Stabroek argued that the explanation given by government that it does not get value for money in hard copy ads “is not credible” because it does patronize government mouthpiece, the Guyana Chronicle (circ (6,000 daily) and the governing party organ, the Mirror newspaper which is not sold on public newsstands.

The circulation of the Stabroek and Kaieteur News is three times greater than the Chronicle but yet they still get state ads.

The announcement said that online readers should be the ones to be made to pay for its “cost recovery” effort. The paper has had an online edition since 1997 it said.

Stabroek said that it “is entitled to a portion of state advertizing on behalf of its readers but since it is also clear that government will not see reason on this matter, there is need to consider further measures to secure itself.”

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