TWO INT’L GROUPS LASH AT PRES. WEAH

NEWS REPORTER

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

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