MONROVIA: Following vehement protests by publishers of some of Liberia’s premium newspapers, cogent information has emerged that the Liberian government is hugely indebted to the independent media in Liberia in the amount of over US$300,000.
Although, the central government has been collecting taxes and other professional fees from various media entities, some highly placed and authoritative media chiefs informed this paper that the government has been sending adverts including public service announcements, speeches, as well as circulars to various print media outlets across the country for publication without payment since 2021.
These publications are done in agreement with the government. However, it has been nearly a year now without any payment made to media institutions by the government, headed by former global soccer legend, George Manneh Weah, as President.
Despite its huge indebtedness to the local media outlets, and other institutions for services rendered, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led administration has been bragging of crafting the “biggest national budget” since the formation of the Liberian nation.
As a result of the situation, this paper understands that many media outlets are facing serious and precarious economic constraints.
Recently, some publishers raised serious alarm over what they called the failure of the Government of Liberia (GOL), to settle debts owed the media as it relates to the Government’s flagship and much-publicized Bicentennial Celebration, which highlighted nearly 200 years of freedom of Africans from servitude from the American plantations and the Caribbean Islands.
In an open letter addressed to the Weah regime, through the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Ledgerhood Julius Rennie, dated November 1, 2022, several publishers of media outlets said: “We write to request for our Bicentennial payment in the tune of US$66,600 for six media institutions.”
According to the letter, marked: “Ref: Request for media Bicentennial Payment,” this amount is based on arrangement reached with the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel Falo McGill, and you (Minister Rennie), as Chairman of the Bicentennial to provide complete coverage of the entire event beginning Sunday, February 13, 2022.
“Mr. Chairman, it is disheartening to note that since these publications were carried out in our various newspapers, we are yet to be paid,” the newspaper owners said.
“Mr. Chairman, we met you countlessly relative to the settlement of our Bicentennial payment but to no avail. Rather, you have referred us to former Minister McGill,” the aggrieved publishers added.
Publishers: “It will interest you to know that following several meetings with Mr. McGill, we were informed that the Bicentennial Account was frozen due to mismanagement and that an investigation was underway.”
“Fortunately”, according to the aggrieved media outlets including Hot Pepper of Philibert Brown; The Analyst of Stanley Seakor; Sam O. Dean of The Independent, Othello B. Garblah of New Dawn; Alphonso Toweh of New Republic and Mohammed Kanneh of the Heritage, “additional funding was provided for the next phase of the Bicentennial which began in July and payment would have been made by then.
However, “there is information that said amount was paid for the media to you (Minister Rennie), for which, of course, none of the performing institutions received payment,” the letter pointed out.
“Mr. Chairman, it is in this regard that we are officially calling for immediate payment of our outstanding bicentennial money,” added the letter, CC of which was sent to President George Manneh Weah and Samuel D. Tweah Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning.
But, Minister Rennie has categorically refuted the information, insisting that no money was given to him for the six media institutions.
He said the information is false and those who are saying he has any money for the media must provide the evidence including the check and voucher numbers.