Two leading international journalists watchdog organizations are backing the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) in expressing serious disappointment over the George Weah-led government’s reluctance to meet up with its indebtedness with the struggling Liberian media two years after the ruling CDC government came to power.
In separate Twitter tweets Tuesday, both organizations expressed concerns with plight of newspaper publishers.
“CPJ joins 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 Committee to Protect Journalists.
Reporters Without Borders added: “As the state owes around US$247,000 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.”
Mr. Othello Garblah, head of the PAL, welcomed the interventions of the two journalists’ watchdog groups and emphasized that it is important for media houses to continue to pile the pressure on the administration to pay up.
Mr. Garblah has been a strong advocate against government dissolving past media debts into what has become the infamous “golden handshake” settlements, to the disadvantage of media houses.
The PAL, at an emergency meeting in Monrovia last Friday, stated that despite the government’s repeated promises to meet up with its financial obligations to the media, it appears to have deliberately refused to live up to its promises.
As a result, media institutions are going through serious financial crisis. As their advertising base remains at a low, compounded by the government’s failure to pay its debt is the fact that the Executive Mansion website has over the past years has taken away vacancy notices and other adverts from the local media.
The prevailing situation is forcing the media into collapse, amid the daily high cost of printing, generator fuel and other logistics that the media need to pay for on a daily basis in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
At their meeting over the weekend, the media practitioners warned that government’s continuous failure to pay its debt to media institutions would eventually lead them to taking several actions, including media blackout and possible withdrawal from the newsstands.
The media practitioners recalled that late last year, during the induction of the President of the Press Union of Liberia, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., publicly announced that the Liberian Government was willing to settle all media bills.