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Editorial: Indebtedness Hampering Gov’t-Media Relations

Poverty is an unfortunate situation wherein the resources needed for human growth and development are unavailable. It may come about due to natural reasons or man’s evil deeds.In Africa, Poverty is blamed on the latter. When President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hosted her annual dinner with the Liberian media in early January this year, one issue which attracted the attention of her guests was her government’s indebtedness to the fourth estate.

The President was informed about the intentional delays by government ministries and agencies in settling the huge debts owed the media since 2010 from advertisements and other publications. Apparently, though that issue may have been considered by Madam President, it may not have also been given the attention expected judging from the attitudes of some of the ministries and agencies of the Liberian Government.

Despite being very cognizant of the fact that there are funds in the respective budgets of these institutions for media relations, and that the sustainability of the private media, especially the print depends on adverts and other publications, there continue to be deliberate attempts by the government to strangulate the media.

It is seriously unfortunate that the attitude of the Government of Liberia toward the media is in total contradiction of its public statements regarding the growth and development of the sector. The intention of the President toward the media may be good, but officials on whom she greatly depends in fostering her government’s relations with the media may just also be doing something else; and as the result, the entire government may receive the shots-no wonder why the Poverty Reduction Strategy suffered short-circuits in its actualization nation-wide.

The primary reason may have been that the move toward the reduction of poverty only focused on a minute sector of the Liberian society-perhaps senior officials, as well as our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora brought  by President Sirleaf  to ‘sacrify’ for the country as they usually claim. We at the New Dawn-Liberia do detest all attempts by some of these ministries and agencies of government to keep us in poverty because it is not our “portion”.

Whether or not individuals within these institutions are having their own ways to infuse “bad blood” into the relationship between the Government of Liberia and the media, the government must still be held responsible. It must be understood that we at the New Dawn-Liberia do pay taxes to the government, salaries to our employees, etc., etc, on time, and would therefore require the government to reciprocate in similar manner and form.

Since 2011, the Ministries of Finance, Education, State for Presidential Affairs, Internal Affairs, as well as the National Oil Company of Liberia and LISGIS have either delayed or refused to make settlement of cash legitimately owed us.

Worst of it all,  the Ministry of Gender and Development, Liberia Maritime Authority  and Liberian Senate have since 2010, been indebted to the New Dawn-Liberia  without any conscience of accepting the fact that this paper is an independent institution whose sustainability is dependent on adverts and other supplements.

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We strongly harbor the belief that for the Liberian media to be vibrant, it must be financially independent. It is also our belief that the government may be keeping us poor as a sector by adopting such policy against us because it wants us to look up to it, begging perpetually.

This is why we, again, reiterate our call to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as was done at the dinner in early January at the Monrovia City hall, for these ministries and agencies to clear their indebtedness with us. If the Liberian Government must succeed in the fight against poverty, the approach must be very holistic or else…..

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