I've sat back for a while now and watched the debate about whether or not the government of Guyana is actually threatening the freedom of the press. I was on the fence leaning towards the 'yes it is' side until about 2 minutes ago.
Firstly, I'd like to ask what freedom of the press entails. Freedom of the press is freedom from whom or what? A state's governing body has the legal monopoly on the use of coercive force. If the government is one of your newspaper's larger clients, does that increase or diminish your freedom to publish what you want? I can think of arguments that could go both ways.
A safe assumption may be that if government is no longer a client of a publication, the publication would have more liberty to publish material that is critical of the government.
Likewise it is helpful to examine the government the way one would a self-interested individual. Who in his right mind would choose to fund another entity that is highly critical of it? It's counterintuitive to bankroll the exposure of one's own impropriety. The government is a consumer of advertising. It should be expected to react to the same incentives a company might. Would Banks DIH buy advertising in the same medium that also writes exposes of its executives?
It's fallacious to deal with government while expecting it to act on a higher plane when in fact it will usually act like everyone else, or worse.
It seems to me that Stabroek News doesn't view government ad revenues in this light. My guess is that it sees them as a tax rebate or as a subsidy. A newspaper that gets handouts or special treatment like that from government can hardly be expected to continue to play the important role of an independent medium. Can one be free from a government while being dependent on its business? Stabroek News can better serve the public by doing what it can to execute a successful business model without government ad revenue.
As long as the government isn't doing anything else to cause tangible losses to Stabroek News, the government is simply using market behavior to retaliate against the newspaper. It's mean-spirited and certainly not 'fair'. Nevertheless, it leaves Stabroek News freer to criticize the government without causing a conflict of interest.