The Press Union of Liberia, (PUL) has backed calls by newspapers publishers in the country for Government to pay their overdue advertisements money as the Union begins consultations on the drafting of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the Liberian media.
The Union urges government ministries and agencies to consider it a priority, the payment of their prolonged debts to media houses to save them from insolvency.
PULin a release issued over the weekend said it will as of Monday, August 27th, begin consultations with segments of the media including owners and other practitioners on the CBA.
The Union said it considers the protracted indebtedness of the government to the media counterproductive to the survival and sustainability of media institutions.
The Union understands government owes some media institutions for as long as up to "three years" and would now request tax clearances in some cases before processing payment.
"It is simply strangulating for government to owe media entities for this long and expect them to be viable," the release quoted PUL President Peter Quaqua as lamenting.
Mr. Quaqua said: "We are confused by such development and refuse to accept that the government will choose to do business with a media institution in the first place without checking its tax status, but would request clearance only at the time of payment - this is strange and troubling."
While beseeching the support of media owners in bettering the conditions of service of journalists in the country, the Union also calls on government to support efforts aimed at addressing the appalling labor situation in the media, which remains ever present in the industry.
The Union acknowledges the contributions and resilience of media employers and the entire media community in creating and protecting the current media space in the country, but warned that unless the "bread and butter and safety" issues of journalists are honestly confronted, the future of the profession is in trouble.
"We have covered some grounds externally, and must together continue to hold the 'feet of the government to the fire' in making more concessions, but it is about time that we also unit in finding answers to the working conditions of journalists because it is the embodiment of ethical journalism," Mr. Quaqua said in a release.
The Collective Bargaining Framework for West African Journalists, supported by the International Federation of Journalists, seeks to enhance the labor and ethical standards for journalists, including wages.
The Union has targeted this year's anniversary celebration, scheduled for Robertsports, Grand Cape Mount County, as the setting for the final debate and validation of the document.
PUL turns 48 years old on September 30, 2012 and sees the adoption of a Collective Bargaining Framework as a redemptive landmark achievement in the struggle for press freedom.
Meanwhile, the Union has named a seven-member ad hoc committee to organize and execute the 48th anniversary activities. Those appointed are: Zoegar Jaynes, Chairman Jallah Grayfield of Love FM, secretary; Roland Perry of The Informer, Shirk Sonii of Radion Cape Mount, Janjay F. Campbell of the Inquirer, Fabin Quiah of radio Varitas and Akai Awulety of Power FM.