MONROVIA- Two of the world’s leading international media entities on late Tuesday lashed at president George Weah’s government for failing to settle media debts; the Publishers Association of Liberia .
In two separate tweets, The Committee to Protect journalists and Reporters without Borders said they were concern over the delays in setting media bills for the Publishers Association of Liberia-PAL.
“CPJ joins the Press- the Publishers Association of Liberia(PAL) to express concern about the government withholding payment of debts to media houses, exacerbating already difficult economic circumstances for journalists, said the CPJ.
The PAL, has over the past two years been calling on the government to settle its indebtedness but nothing substantial has come out.
It can be recalled that late last year, during the induction ceremony of the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia, the umbrella media organisation, the
Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Samuel D. Tweah, Jr
called on the media to submit its bills so that he would ensure that it is paid. Since then, all the bills have been submitted and series of meetings have been held with key stake holders, but are yet to be settled.
The Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe two weeks ago, held meeting with the publishers and promised to work with the Finance Minister to ensure that the bills are settled. But the minister has failed to call the second meeting or even answer any journalist call on the media debt payment.
This prompted the PAL to organize an emergency meeting last Friday.
PAL expressed disappointment over the government’s apparent failure to honor its obligations.
Reporters Without Borders added: “As the state owes around US$247 of advertising in the press, about 12 newspapers are at risk of going bankrupt. RSW is very much concerned by the media outlets survival already in economic disarray amid the COVID19 crisis.”
The PAL said what is even more disturbing is for the official presidential website to be used by private companies, embassies, international organizations and other entities to advertise vacancy announcements at very low rate. For instance, advertisement which private entities should pay about US$400.00 or more, to a local newspaper, they normally pay as low as US$100.00 to publish on president Weah’s official website; a situation which is also affecting the media.
“We have told the president and his officials that this is wrong. Let private companies advertise in any media in the country of their choice, but not the presidential website,” Mr. Alphonso Toweh, publisher of New Republic News paper (www.newrepublicliberia.com) and correspondent for Reuters News Agency told a local talk show Tuesday. PAL has also condemned the presidency using its official website to run advertisement for private companies.
The government has been indebted to the Publishers for two years. As a result, media institutions are going through serious financial crisis, as their advertising base remains low.
“This is very bad. The government strangulating the media. This is a clear one. The media has a lot in its arsenal to release. But we do not want to reach there. The government should not force us to reach there, “ Mr. James Kiazulu, former president of the Press Union of Liberia and Secretary General of the PAL said on a local Talk show Tuesday.
The president of the PAL, Mr. Othello Garblah said he welcomes the intervention of the two international media outlets and urged others to follow and impress on the government to settle the debts.
He said, “for this government which got huge publicity from the media over the past time to behave like this, is shocking.” TNR