The Civil Law Court has with immediate effect has closed down two radio stations upon the request of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) reportedly based on their alleged refusal to regularize their status.
Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing, the acting head of the LTA, Henry Benson disclosed that the closure of these two radio stations is in line to their continual to pay their taxes to the Liberian Government as required by law, and further said more radio stations to follow in the shortest possible time.
Mr. Benson also said his entity will not allow media houses that are in the habit of criticizing the Liberian Government on their respective airwaves without being balanced in its reportage and denying the Liberian Government of its needed revenue intake.
“People continue to take the airwaves without any regard; LTA sees that as a clear violation, for which the LTA was established by law to regulate and will continue to do so. We have effectively shut down a radio station, beginning with Voice FM 102.7 and more to come, because we have to show that there is law and order in Liberia,” he declared.
Commissioner Benson said 102.7 frequency was legitimately secured in 2012 by Liberia Web Radio, a non-commercial station which fulfilled all the requirements to operate in Liberia.
Woods Nyanton, Co-host of the Costa Show on Voice FM, told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the LTA was in an error to disclose that the organization is operating without permit.
He said the Ministry of Information has set up a difficult process just to ensure that we don’t get a permit and the LTA needed to clearly tell the people of Liberia that, despite efforts made and readiness demonstrated by Voice FM to pay the require tax to government, the Ministry of Information has decided not give permit to Voice FM.
“We are in partnership with the Liberia Web Radio, the official owner of the frequency of 102.7 and there are legal documents to prove that. We have been behind the government to regularize our status but MICAT has set up a difficult process because we are critical of the government and the people of Liberia can attest to that,” Mr. Nyanton said.
According to Benson, LTA has noticed over the years that people have come with no regard for the LTA and the Ministry of Information who are responsible to give clearances for establishing radio stations.
“We at the LTA do not have the authority to close or shut down stations,” Benson said. “We made our case to the Justice Ministry, who scrutinized our processes and saw merit in our case to clear the airwaves of stations operating without proper assigned frequencies. This is a national security measure. This is also a measure to make available scarce frequency to applicants who follow the right procedure,” Commissioner Benson said.
He explained that after going through couple of years of regularizing the country’s airwaves, most especially radio stations and television stations, the LTA has asked the Ministry of Justice through the court to shut down some radio stations and television stations.
“It doesn’t mean well for anyone to come from anywhere and open a radio station and say anything he or she wants to say without any authorization from the regulating body of the government,” he said.
“All we ask is, make sure that your station is regularized, because you are responsible for what you say, despite by law and by the objective of journalism,” Benson said, adding that, “We have come here to inform you that LTA is the institution established by this government to manage and effectively look after in terms of superintending the airwaves we enjoy. Every communication in this country, including radio stations, television stations and everything that have to do with communication be regulated by LTA.”
In addition to the closure, the Civil Law Court summoned Voice FM for declaratory judgment to appear later this month.
The writ of summons said “You are hereby commanded to appear before the Civil Law Court to answer to the petition of the above-named in petition of declaratory judgment. To notify the respondent that upon their failure to do so, judgment will be rendered by default against them.”
According to him, after few hours, one of the sheriffs and other men wearing plain clothes entered the Voice FM facility and took away some materials belonging to the station, using a white pickup. The two radio station been ordered closed down by the Civil Law Court upon the orders of the LTA are owned by Businessman and politician Benoni Urey who is the owner of the Love Radio and TV, while the Voice FM is owned by Mr. Henry Costa.
Mr. Costa is currently in the United States where he has always appeared on his local talk show ‘The Henry Costa Show’ via the internet.