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Government demands proof of registration from media outlets before paying advertising debts

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Media houses in Monrovia have begun complaining that government agencies are refusing to pay their legitimate advertisement debts until they produce evidence of legal existence.

An inquiry by CEMESP received corroboration from "The New Democrat", "The News" and "Public Agenda" newspapers. Other papers have been hesitant to comment.

In its 15 October 2007 editorial, "The New Democrat" questioned the action by arguing that the logic implied "would demand that ministries receive the registration documents of all media houses before advertising in them."

"The New Democrat" further argued that "ministries demanding business registration papers before debt repayment? is just one ugly beginning in a bad direction," suggesting that the next demand could be "submission of editorial policy."

In addition, "The New Democrat" suggested to the government that if the demand for registration papers is the rule, then it should equally apply to all government vendors.

This latest action from the government is reminiscent of past occasions, when papers seen to be antagonistic to the government were simply denied government adverts.

Several editors told CEMESP that they have since complied, but noted that they had been wary of such instances since the days of Charles Taylor, when many newspapers were closed down for tax payment.

They added that whether the papers are registered or not does not seem to be the problem, rather they are concerned that registration issues would come forth when people want to collect legitimate debts.

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