Guyana: Police Looking for Blogger

Following one Guyana blogger's reporting of alleged economic fallout over the CL Financial failure, mainstream media are reporting that Guyana police are looking for the person (or people) behind the now-defunct blog Living Guyana because of “a false report that a commercial bank in the South American nation had requested a $5 million bailout to avert a collapse.”

Fellow bloggers have had a lot to say. Guyana 360 predicts that the blog will probably “resurface under another name”, and claims that the police became involved after they “received a complaint from the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) concerning an article that appeared on a website and which carried a letter with erroneous statements about the said Bank.” The post continues:

Further investigations have revealed that these articles are erroneous and intended to cause confusion and disruption to the lives of citizens of Guyana and other stakeholders of these banking institutions.

The Force considers these acts to be erroneous, wicked and intended to cause public mischief. In the circumstances, an investigation has been launched to verify who is hosting this website and to pursue any other information or intelligence which surfaces during the investigation.

International and local agencies have been contacted for assistance in this investigation, and if it is determined that the law has been broken, anonymity does not exonerate anyone from the consequences that follow.

Guyana 911 is extremely critical about Living Guyana, calling the blog a “play-play news agency”, but also making the point that the “panic” is not as widespread as is believed:

[President] Jagdeo has convinced himself that the public has been put into panic and now police and shit are involved.

Look Jagdeo … nobody has panicked.

Meanwhile, Guyana Music Arts calls the situation “so sad”, and Live in Guyana (not to be confused with the blogger in question) republishes the statement that Living Guyana posted before the blog was removed:

Critic's note: Living Guyana has already published a statement on this. We have accepted that the story is false. 100% INCORRECT. We were relayed information by someone who was duped by a wicked person whose aim was to use this blog to create mischief. Living Guyana apologises wholeheartedly to those inconvenienced.

But the retraction doesn't get the blogger of the hook, according to Live in Guyana:

Any part of the world you'll be crucified for spreading fear, panic and public [mischief] on such sensitive issues. The Global financial crisis is extremely serious and is not for anyone to mess around by sending panic waves through the society.

The blogger goes on to republish a statement by the government:

The Government of Guyana wishes to denounce comments carried on a blog and repeated by Evening News last evening stating that GBTI has applied to the Bank of Guyana for a G$1 billion bailout, along with comments carried on a blog regarding Citizens Bank.

Government has noted that Evening News has since retracted its comments and apologised for its actions, and it is hoped that other media houses and citizens will act responsibly in these matters.

The Government further wishes to condemn in the harshest possible manner what appears to be a coordinated attempt to cast aspersions on the strength of our financial system. As has been reiterated by the Central Bank, Guyana’s financial system continues to be stable and the financial institutions operating in Guyana remain well-managed and financially sound.

Diaspora blogger Signifyin’ Guyana, however, does not seem to be entirely convinced:

CLICO clients are still worried about their policies, and there appears to be a lot of silence around the state of affairs over there. Stabroek News couldn't get a comment from the Insurance Commissioner, Maria van Beek in response to customers’ complaints about their policies and their concerns about an economic downturn.

And as the Government of Guyana seems intent on sending this message about financial stability, there appears to be more lack of confidence about their handling of money–this time from Canada. In an effort to make its international assisstance “more focused, more effective, and more accountable,” the Canadian government (in a statement on Monday) recently dropped Guyana from its list of aid recipients. A condition President Jagdeo claimed to be unaware of two days ago.

Now given these internal and external concerns about Guyana's money dealings and management, one wonders who this emphatic talk about a stable state of financial affairs by the Government of Guyana is meant to pacify?

Signifyin’ Guyana also sees a silver lining in the fact that the police are involved:

This is definitely an indication that bloggers in Guyana are being taken seriously, and as a result should behave like any responsible media and check sources carefully and so forth. To their credit, they did the right thing and retracted the stories once they discovered they were false.

But she also admits there is a negative side:

Living Guyana (as I said somewhere on this blog last year) has become a largely credible place for giving us the stories other media in Guyana seem reluctant to carry. So this investigation, which for the moment has quieted their voices over there, seems to me an attempt to keep the fallout stories from this financial crisis out of view. This investigation is rather suspicious to me. Highly suspicious.

Finally, she writes a post “in protest and in hope”:

Whether they were forced to do it, or opted to shut down to protect the identities of the bloggers, I, and some of the readers of this blog who have been emailing me with questions all day, am very concerned about the disappearance of Living Guyana, Guyana's most widely-read blog, whose authors have been the most critical of Government and media operations in Guyana.

Although I agree bloggers should adhere to the same code of ethics and standards for verifying sources of their stories as any credible media, I also believe that in order to fight corruption and the possibilities of retribution, one must rely on anonymous whistle blowers, and take risks with the stories they tell. Living Guyana fought corruption bravely and honourably, and it seems as if they paid the price for the fight.


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