Recent statement by the Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe describing the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) as being a “useless” entity which does not know its function, the President of the Union, Mr. Charles Cuffy has publicly fired back at the Minister, saying the Minister’s insinuation may have been out of frustration. , .
Min. Nagbe made the comment in reaction to a PUL statement condemning threats from the government against the media.
Speaking on Fabric Radio on Monrovia on Tuesday, Min. Nagbe said the PUL is failing to regulate media institutions which he believes is maligning the reputation of the government.
He was in studio with FrontPageAfrica’s publisher, Rodney Sieh and Frank Senworla, a veteran journalist and publisher of the Liberia Public Trust, an online news outlet.
The Information Minister was particular about a FrontPageAfrica report about the Ministers of State and Finance raising a US$182,000 voucher to pay questionable debt incurred during the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor.
The debt was owed to Rocktown Tool & Equipment based in New York, USA. However, a FrontPageAfrica investigation found that the company closed down in 2003 because it could not meet up with its tax obligations.
According to Nagbe, FrontPageAfrica did not do due diligence when it indicated that the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, approved the payment of the debt.
In reaction to that publication, Min. McGill said he had never heard of the company’s name and has never given instruction for such payment. He threatened to sue FrontPageAfrica and ensure that Mr. Sieh goes to jail. He also said he believes in the credibility of Finance Minister and that he would never effect such a payment.
Mr. McGill, by his portfolio as Minister of State is a member of the Debt Management Committee along with the Ministers of Finance and Justice and the Central Bank of Liberia.
The Ministry of Finance admitted to the voucher but said the payment was still in process at the Ministry. The Ministry added that the government is under obligation to honor all legitimate debts.
Meanwhile, the president of the PUL, Charles Cuffy, told FrontPageAfrica that Minister Nagbe’s description of the umbrella organization may have been out of frustration. He added that it is unfortunate for the Minister of Information who is also a member of the Press Union to make such a statement.
“The PUL does not regulate the media, the PUL does not give licenses of media institutions. What the PUL does is to ensure that journalists are protected, that a conducive environment is created for them to operate void of cohesion, intimidation and threats from government and the public,” he said.
He said FrontPageAfrica’s report was factual and it’s incumbent on the government to investigate the report further and inform the public on what is being done to curb corruption in government.
Mr. Cuffy called on journalists and media entities not fall to the threats and intimidations emanating from government.