The UK based publishers of the Guyana Guardian, has filed a formal complaint yesterday with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Guyana, and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna, Austria, against local telephone company, GTT, in which the telecommunications entity is accused of stifling press freedom.
The publication which is widely known to be a constant critic of GTT, has published several articles that are considered irritable and stifling to the company’s interest, in the past.
Hence, the publication’s management is of the view that GTT is out to teach the news publisher a lesson.
According to the complaint which was simultaneously filed with the IPI In Austria by Andrea Fernandes, Senior Editor of the Guyana Guardian, and with the PUC in Guyana by Dennis Adonis, who serves as the publication’s Editor-in-Chief; the telephone company had abruptly seized telephone numbers 226-4740 and 225-1574, even though the outstanding amounts that were claimed by GTT for those accounts were paid.
It was further said that the publication had brought to the attention of GTT, the fact that the telecommunications company was demanding monies for phone calls supposedly made from telephone number 226-4740, even though no phone line was installed at the Guyana Guardian’s offices in Georgetown at the time.
Subsequently, the telephone company, upon realizing the skullduggery on their part, told the Guardian not to pay a cent on the bill, since the claimed sum of $12,000 (US$55) was a billing error on their part.
The phone line was then installed.
However, three weeks after installing the new line, GTT ironically reversed their position and seized the same phone line.
Nonetheless, after protesting the ridiculous seizure, the company promised to immediately restore the service, after acknowledging that the line seizure was also done in error.
But after almost one year, GTT has either refused or neglected to reactivate the said phone line, as the company had promised.
Interestingly, that very phone number was advertised as the main line for the public to call when making newsworthy complaints against utility companies in Guyana, including GTT.
Ms. Fernandes, a Clinical Psychologist by profession, and who is currently attending a conference in Vienna, Austria, has since indicated that she do not feel that the seizure of the lines was coincidental, or was done with any form of proper consideration for press freedom.
In her view, the company is naturally bent on humbling the voices of its critics, since the issues surrounding the seized lines were too petty for GTT to have made such an improper and volatile decision to seize the phone lines of a media house, knowing fully well that the bill was paid.
Nonetheless, while she expresses her lack of confidence in Guyana’s Public Utilities Commission, she is still hoping that the entity can urge GTT to do the right thing and restore the publication’s phone lines soonest.
Otherwise, she intends to lobby the International Press Institute to cause the EU to downgrade the issue of press freedom in Guyana, a factor that can negatively impact the country’s overall corruption index count.
The Guyana Guardian, which basically focuses on social issues and investigative reporting, has been very much critical of GTT over the past three years, and had published more than a dozen articles that are unfavourable to the company.
In recent times, the publication had published an international report which suggested that the data communication service that is offered by GTT is among the worst in the world.