Last month, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave 500 dollars each to a number of print and broadcast media institutions for their Christmas. A number of the institutions condemned the president’s action and returned the money. But of the 18 media institutions that received the money, only five have reportedly returned their checks to the president.
Stanley Seakor is publisher and managing editor of the analyst newspaper, one of the largest newspapers in Liberia. He said his paper did not return the 500 dollars because it was a gift from the president.
“We received and used it for our internal purpose, for our year-end party. We had no reason to return it. It is a gift from the president, and we expressed appreciation for that,” Seakor said.
He dismissed suggestion by some media institutions that the President’s Christmas gift was a bride.
“If you gave a Christmas party to the press, I don’t see it as a bride at all. This government since they came to power, they have not even given a “cato” to the Liberian media. So at this time the government will bribe the press with 500 dollars? It’s not true at all,” Seakor said.
Seakor said his Analyst newspaper is one of the largest newspapers in Liberia and therefore cannot be bribed with 500 dollars.
He also said it was a common practice during the administration of former President Charles Taylor for journalists to receive money during the holidays.
“Well, Taylor regime, it was common in Liberia. So it is very, very surprising to me now to start making noise about it. And you are talking about 500 dollars. Taylor regime was giving about 10 thousand dollars. So it’s not strange to me at all,” he said
Seakor again rejected criticism of President Sirleaf that her 500-dollar Christmas gift was a bribe to the media.
“I don’t understand what they call criticism. Since she took over, the press has not received any dime from the government at any function. To write a letter official to media institutions for the New Year, and include a check for 500 dollars and issued press release. It was the right thing to do. So why should it be construed that it was a bribe?” Seakor said.