CPJ, Reporters Without Borders Slam Weah Government for Debts Owed to Media

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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.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Staging news blackouts and withdrawals from the newsstands would be music in the ears of the government. Why? A totalitarian government such as this always likes and enjoys a subdued, sullen, and an inactive atmosphere instead of a buoyant, lively, and pressure oriented one, which is often associated with the media.

    This government does not embrace democratic reforms and would love to see a constitutional ban place on the press especially the independent media. Let me make a hypothetical case here: How would the political atmosphere in Liberia have been if the press was only reporting one-sidedly in favor of the Liberian government?

    One can almost predict with certainty, the relationship between the government and particularly the independent press media would have been the coziest. Why? Because it would be working to promote the government’s diabolical causes by spreading state run propaganda and promoting yellow journalism.
    But because some gallant men and women of the Fourth Estate have chosen the premise that they will stay true to their calling since democracy and freedom of speech are inseparable, the government does everything it can to thwart its efforts including the commission of mayhem, target assassinations against them, and the outright failures to do due diligence in paying its arrears to the publishers.

    In the eyes of this administration, releasing payments to the publishers by the government is seen as a living organism that gives support or sustenance to a deadly parasite, which keeps leeching on its life blood with no end in sight, and that if it does not find a way to terminate it, the opposite might as well become the reality.

    An argument can be made that this government does support press freedom across the board as the president signed the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Press Freedom Act into law about a year ago after he came to power. However, with the waves of crackdowns meted out quite recently against journalists and peaceful demonstrators, one wonders if the act was signed in good faith and also what the future of democracy will look like for average Liberians a few years from now.

  2. On the whole, African leaders and elected leaders of most second to third world countries’are opposed to democracy. In other words, African leaders give the impression that they will run their respective governments democratically while they run for the office of presidency. But once they are sworn in, the elected leaders become resentful of opposition voices. Democracy is not good without the voice or voices of opposition! There’s one leader in Africa who governed in a way that’s similar to what one sees in Western societies. That gentleman, Mr. Nelson Mandela of South Africa was not perfect by any stretch. But in reality, he was a good leader.

    In Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not govern with an ironhand like leaders such as Nkhrumah of Ghana or Mugabe of Zimbabwe. But in reality, Johnson-Sirleaf did not meet the threshold of leadership in the real sense of what one sees in a Western society. For instance, during her presidency, it was reported that Johnson-Sirleaf called for the imprisonment of Rodney Sieh. Rodney Sieh’s voice was one of opposition. To her, probably a nuisance. Why did it happen? Where was her democracy?

    In America, Trump will never imprison anyone because of a disagreement. Neither does Trump have the authority to imprison someone who may threaten him. Usually during his Covid-19 updates, Trump scolds reporters and TV networks like CNN and MSNBC. He dislikes opposition voices, but never will he order a TV network to be shut or perhaps call for a news reporter to be imprisoned.

    I don’t want to say this. But I will say it because it’s a fit for my theory. Democracy is not a good form of government for third world countries, especially African countries. Sadly, democracy is what we need in Africa.

  3. Correction: There shouldn’t be an apostrophe in front of countries in the first paragraph. The bloody computer adds words or makes changes in spelling words sometimes after one’s comment has been transmitted.

  4. In America, Trump will never imprison anyone because of a disagreement. Neither does Trump have the authority to imprison someone who may threaten him.

    Hi Hney,

    To a point Sir, anyone who dares threaten the president of the USA will be imprisoned!
    People do oppose and disagree with the president of the USA, but they do not dare insult him publicly, as the individual you just named along with nearly all CDCians.
    We thought they had the solution to every problem for which they were so vocal about. We did not know they were coming to propose a trial and error leadership.

  5. If government owes back pay to police officers, they will take bribes. Similarly, owed members of the fourth estate may become hostile; after all, like members of the first, second, and third estates, their families need shelter and food during these fearsome times of lockdowns. The argument of government’s financial straits is understandable, but a payment plan can be arranged to gradually settle the indebtedness which has been piling since the UP-led rule.

    Frankly, if I were a journalist in that fix, I would’ve been hopping mad. Not to talk of the embarrassment of international interest groups joining in pressuring political leaders to meet their financial obligations. It is a risky place to be for a government in need of foreign investors, foreign aid, and foreign loans. Siaka Stevens once told his Finance Minister, “Are you sober to owe newspapers during election season – the Opposition would rejoice”.

  6. Dolo,
    You’re incorrect! A lot of people hurl insults at Trump on TV almost every day. Just to let you know, Trump’s first appointed Secretary of State said openly that Trump “is a moron”. The gentleman didn’t say, “Trump was or could be a moron sometimes”. He used the present tense of the linking verb “is”. In a way, Trump tends to reinforce that image of a liar when he updates the nation every day concerning Covid-19. He gives misleading information. Just listen to MSNBC in the mornings on Morning Joe! Trump is usually labeled as a liar. What on earth can he do. But not so in Africa!

    There’s something called ” urban dictionary”. Look for the definition of the word “idiot”. Type the word… idiot… in your browser and also type in “by urban dictionary”. See who is mentioned as an idiot!

    Question:
    When you use the plural pronoun “we”, what do you mean? Are you referring to the ANC people of which you’re a card-carrying member? I hate to say you’re a card-carrying member. You have said on several occasions, you’re not a member, neither have you seen or chatted with the party’s Standard Bearer, Alexander Cummings.

    Trump will not imprison anyone who threatens him. The courts are here. That’s democracy. Of course, I am not suggesting that democracy means threats. I’d like to be understood.

  7. Uncle Hney,

    Chey, you been blaming this poor computer of yours for all the typing mistakes, all the grammatical errors that you been making in the last 10-11 months, i would say. If this computer would speak, It would have plenty to say.

    My sister is well. Thankfully she is doing well. I think she is a bit afraid with the way the pandemic is raging in the USA. She is observing protocols and behaving accordingly. Hopefully it all goes away sooner, rather than later.

    Uncle Dolo, good to have you back Sir, hopefully your family is doing well.

    I was in Gbarnga to ascertain facts about the Pastor who raped a teenager and that city is going about its business normally. I also drove to Gbalatuah because I had heard so much about place and the stories that surrounds it. I did hear some stories.

    I am back home now under my STAY HOME ORDER and will try to make the best of it.

    Peace

  8. JM,
    I certainly hope you are in good health. Social distancing is one of the things we do here everyday in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. I hope that the same thing is being done in Liberia. By the grace of God, we’ll get out of this together.

    What are some of the grammatical errors that you’re referring to? Can you give me a few examples?

    I await your response.

  9. Joe,

    Thanks for reaching out and note that I am always connected but hardly have the time to write as I have become a workaholic during the COVID-19 crisis, simply because I must do a lot of job myself.
    Note that I barely spend 30 min nowadays on the Daily Observer. I hope you enjoyed yourself out there in Gbarnga and can give me firsthand details on that rapist pastor.

    Uncle Hney,

    First, I don’t like watching MSNBC. I have the channel both at home and in office but because of its biased reporting against Trump, I hardly tune in to it.
    I sometimes watch CNN (never Don Lemon’s shows), but I am most of the time on Fox Nation and occasionally on RT (Russian TV), Euronews and France 24.
    For education and entertainment purposes, I like watching documentaries (Science, History and Discoveries) and African Movies.

    Those guys who use unpleasant words against any US sitting president usually hide behind a powerful umbrella or machine. No one ever dares THREATEN a sitting US president, please prove me wrong again.
    Joe Biden recently described Trump as xenophobic, but he will pay for that dearly come this October.
    Do not compare the level of intellectual adversaries in US politics to what goes on in Liberia. We have heard some very rude and uncouth behavior to the Ellen-led government from the CDC incomparable at any time in our history or in any country in the world. Maybe you don’t know but some of those Radio Talk shows were recorded and documented even by international organizations.

    Why would you always like to drag my boss Cummings and the ANC into things I say as a private citizen or an admirer of the ANC?
    I now have the constitution of the party, and by the time I pick up membership card, I will refrain from making some comments I make here as the constitution forbids me from making some.
    For now, I am Petarus Dolo, an ordinary Liberian. Confront me as such.

    Keep safe up there, Sir!
    My regards.

  10. Mr. Dolo,
    You keep hammering at something that I wrote. It will be the right thing to do if you could take your time and re-read it. Remember, the word “may” is the operative word. I didn’t say any citizen of the US ,”can” threaten a sitting US president and walk! I hope you re-read what I wrote above!

    Second, “we thought they had the solution to every problem”, that’s exactly what you said. So I humbly and courteously ask once again, who are you referring to when you say “we thought they had the solution to every problem”? You need to learn how to get over some things! As long as you are a diehard follower of the ANC and Commings, (or maybe since you are an apologist 🤠) you will hear a whole lot of stuff…. some may be good, some may be unsavory. In other words, you’re fair game! That’s politics. Brother Dolo, try not to be a thin-skinned political operative. I wasn’t interested in poking fun at you or Commings!

    On the other hand, Commings and you are not a step above the archangels, God forbid! So even if I had intended to do a funny joke, so what? Take it man. You vaciously attack your nemesis some times. Example, on several occasions, you referred to Weah’s RIA director as “preacher man”. Frankly, it tickles me. In any case, I see that as a “joke”. I hope it is. But realistically, your use of such a “preacher man” phrase may ruffle the feathers in some quarters. The bottom line is this…..it you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Remember, “you will reap what you sow”. What’s good for the goose, is also good for the gander. You poke fun at people, it will come back at you, pure and simple!

    Finally, go back and read to see how I used the word “may threaten”. It’s not the same as “can threaten”. Continue to watch FOX. But the recent poll numbers for your man Trump and FOX news are not too good. As matters relate to Covid-19, the American people believe that Trump is not doing a good job, despite his daily briefings. By golly, I am sure Trump can lean on your wisdom for guidance.

    Peace

  11. Dear Hney,

    I just got the polls from the Washington Post, and Trump’s approval rating on how he’s handling the COVID-19 crisis is fantastic.
    Here again, it depends on which polls you read; mainstream or conservative or objective?
    Consult polls from the 2016 elections, and even Trumps standing in the 2020 elections against nearly all democratic candidates, you will see that nearly all of them beat Trump with at least 4 points in the upcoming elections.
    I have learned to read credible statistical data and make informed decisions. Some are really political and misleading to public opinions.

    I take the Cummings card as a fair game. I am not in any way angry about that and I am really learning to control my emotion ever since I came to this blog. I don’t mean any qualms from any of your comments. It’s always interesting and educative to exchange with you, Hney. There is no hypocrisy about this. Take all my comments to be a political game to you and others.

    In the phrase above, the personal pronoun “we” refers to CDC and partisans. This party was too vocal on Ellen, and so some of us thought they knew what they were saying and they could do better, not knowing they were going to be the worst regime ever in the history of Liberia at all times; always copying, even speeches, and doing what they vehemently opposed. Anyway, history will retain them.

    Must run home to the family. At least the preacher men won’t steal, that’s one good thing about them. I just wish they could be innovative, but how can they be innovative with figures and technologies? Maybe the Holy Spirit will inspire them!

    My regards!

  12. Uncle Hney,

    We are now on lock-down and problems are already arising. I daresay they will continue to arise, we just hope that violence does not ensure .

    your mistakes, Uncle H. you put apostrophe in front of countries, for that you blamed the computer. One such example. Thank you very much. you owe me plenty united states ten cents. Try and pay sir.

    The trip to Gbarnga was to ascertain for ourselves what had transpired between the teenager in question and the “learned” pastor. The family was aggressive towards us at first because they mistook us to be journalists but after identifying ourselves and explaining our mission, they relented and talked to us, but we could not get anything much out of them.

    But we were able to gather certain facts from them and from other residents living in the community. The pastor has had several sexual liaisons with other minors who, like, this teenager, had fallen behind financially. We could not verify whether he was married or not.

    But it must be said that most folks spoke very highly of him.

    It was because of this episode that pushed me to traveled to Gbalatuah to find out if some of the stories that i had long been hearing about this was true or not.

    Here is the gist: President Tolbert and some members of his inner circle had established a school in Gbalatuah and recruited students, mainly females, for, among other things, having these young ladies at their beck and call when the occasion warranted it.

    Individuals we spoke with were divided on the issues. Some agreed that, yes, President Tolbert and his colleagues had girl friends on the campus, but those ladies were treated well and they were not forced into anything they did not want to do. Others argued that those females were mostly minors and because their tuition were being paid, they had no choice but to acquiesce to what was wanted of them

    If what we heard were true, then this issue did not start with this unfortunate pastor in Gbarnga. No, i am not trying to indict anyone of find dirt. I am a scholar and a historian and facts finding is my forte.

    Gbalatuah is a town that time seems to be forgetting bit by bit.

    Glad to know that you around, Uncle Dolo.

    My plenty United States ten cents, Uncle Hney

    Peace

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