MONROVIA – While it remains a fact that the George Weah-led government and its predecessor fought hard to ensure press freedom through the decriminalization of free speech and the passage of the coveted Table Mountain Declaration, independent media institutions still continue to struggle for the attainment of the attendant economic freedom associated with press freedom. This reality has been seemingly revealed with the hue and cry from six top media houses in the country that have been demanding the Government of Liberia to pay them the amount of US$66,000 owed them for providing complete coverage of the Bicentennial Program.
In a letter addressed to Minister Rennie, a copy of which is in the possession of this paper, the media houses noted that the amount in question is based on an arrangement reached with the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill, and 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. 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.
“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 an investigation was underway. Fortunately, 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 the amount was paid for the media to you, which of course none of the performing institutions received payment. Mr. Chairman, it is in this regard that we are officially requesting immediate payment of our outstanding bicentennial money,” the letter to Minister Rennie stated.
Print media institutions affected by Minister Rennie’s purported underhandedness include the Hotpepper newspaper of publisher Philipbert Browne; the Analyst Newspaper of publisher Stanley Seakor; the Independent Newspaper of publisher Sam O. Dean; the New Dawn Newspaper of publisher Othello B. Garblah; the New Republic Newspaper of publisher Alphonso Toweh; and the Heritage Newspaper of publisher Mohammed Kanneh.
Copies of the media bosses’ complaint were dispatched to the office of the President of the Republic of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, as well as the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah.
But in a sharp reaction to the media honchos’ allegation, Minister Ledgerhood Rennie has openly challenged those accusing him of using the money meant for the Bicentennial payment for six media institutions. According to sources close to the affected publishers, Minister Rennie in a belligerent manner refused to accept the media bosses’ letter of complaint and challenged all those accusing him to provide evidence, and if the evidence is proven, he is prepared to resign as Minister of Information.