UPDATE: Voice FM Listeners’ Hope Dashed

By Abraham S. Sollie/GNN Contributor –

Mr. Henry Costa, Station Manager, Voice FM
Mr. Henry Costa, Station Manager, Voice FM

Hundreds of Liberians who were anxiously awaiting the removal of the injunction imposed on their widely listened to Voice FM radio station were greatly disappointed, including the station manager, Henry Costa when the Presiding Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law   Court “A” , Yussif D. Kaba,  denied  and dismissed a request made before the court by the  legal team of the station’s Management to have it (station) reopened by lifting  a preliminary  injunction .

The Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court “A” is located at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.

It can be recalled that a fortnight ago, the  Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court “A” for Montserrado County, placed a preliminary injunction on Voice FM 102.7 and ordered one of its sheriff to refrain and enjoin the station from further broadcasting  on the frequency  102.7 and to also take possession and  custody of any equipment and/or accessories used by the station for the purpose of broadcasting, pending the final determination of a petition for declaratory judgment as prayed for by the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA).

The LTA, in a six-count petition for a declaratory judgment, prayed the court for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against Voice FM adding that it (LTA) is the regulatory agency of the Government of Liberia that responsible for the orderly and efficient management, allocation, assignment and use of radio frequencies, including all civilian, non-civilian and commercial radio frequencies.

The LTA indicated that it wants the court to  issue  the preliminary injunction against the station because it (LTA) stated that the Management of Voice FM without license or any form of authorization hijacked the 102.7 frequency and commenced broadcasting on the said frequency.

It among other things stated that the frequency 102.7 was initially licensed to Liberia Web Radio on July 1, 2013, for a period of one year and that since the expiration of the one year period, on June 30, 2014, it (LTA) has not renewed the license something the LTA said is against Part V, Section 16(2) of the Telecommunication Licensing Authorization Regulations (LTA-REG-001), to assign or transfer ownership of the license to Voice FM 102.7.

In response, the Management Voice FM 102.7, filed a motion to vacate the injunction before the court praying it (court) to remove the restriction that is preventing it from operating on grounds that the  injunctive  relief sought by the LTA was in bad faith and merely intended to embarrass and frustrate its mission of providing quality information to the general public.

The Management of Voice FM stated that it agrees  that  the Act establishing the LTA  prevents people from operating radio communication equipment or make any use of radio frequencies except in accordance with radio spectrum license or radio frequency authorization issued by the LTA.

It among other things told the court that it never hijacked frequency 102.7 and that the said frequency is owned by the Liberia Web Radio who, through its Board Chairman Mr. Kalfa Nyamah, officially informed the LTA, the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) before the expiration of the license in 2014 something he said that both LTA and MICAT failed to respond to.

In his ruling, Judge Kaba stated that after carefully perusing the contentions of both parties, the court was left with three main issues for determination.

“Whether or not the petition for preliminary injunction has no legal bases and that the same was filed in bad faith with the sole intention to frustrate the respondent/Movant in its mission  of providing quality information to the general public? Whether or not the filing of a bond along with a motion to vacate is the condition necessary for an injunction to be vacated? Whether or not considering the averments in the petition for preliminary injunction and the motion to vacate the preliminary injunction , there exist sufficient grounds to make permanent the temporary restraining  order issued by this court?,” Judge Kaba adjudged.

He added that there is no specificity in the station’s request as to what constitute the bad faith for which the station was asking to be enjoined.

He furthered that the both parties are in agreement that the LTA is the regulatory agency under the telecommunication act and the act requires users of radio communication equipment and radio frequencies to obtain license and authorization from the LTA as regulatory agency.

Judge Kaba emphasized that the regulations are specific and must be followed to the letter so that their intended  objective be achieved and that that the regulatory agency should be able to exercise the power granted it under the act in a manner so as not to defeat the intended purpose of the act.

Judge Kaba ordered an investigation into an allegation raised by the Management of Voice FM that US$800 and L$30,000  belonging to Mr. Woods A. Nyanton, Deputy Station Manager  of Voice FM and laptops were taken away.

He among other things denied and dismissed the station’s request for the court vacate the preliminary injunction and made permanent the injunction earlier on issued on the station pending the outcome of  a hearing in LTA’s request for declaratory judgment.

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About Cholo Brooks 14333 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.