The legal team of Voice FM radio station which was shut down last month by the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) for its “failure to obtain operating permit over the last couple of years, has told the Civil Law Court that it is abandoning the quest to continue the case.
The legal team of the Voice FM said it is abandoning the case involving the station and the LTA due to information it has gathered that the office building which was used by the ‘closed’ Voice FM 102.7 Radio Station over the years was owned by another person who is requesting the use of his office facilities being illegally occupied by the Voice FM.
The Voice FM legal team further disclosed that it has now resolved not to continue the case at the Civil Law Court on behalf of the radio station anymore, and also appealed to the Judge of the Civil Law Court to reopen the offices previously occupied by the management of the Voice FM 102.7 radio station.
This latest information from the legal of the Voice FM 102.7 which is owned by Henry Costa has put to rest the legal battle between the LTA and the management of Voice FM 102.7 radio station.
The Liberia Telecommunications Authority through the Civil Law Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit temporarily shut down the station on July 4, 2016 just minutes after the commencement of its famous talk show “the Costa Show”.
The station was closed by Sheriff from the Civil Law Court backed by plainclothes security officers.
The court’s action to shut down the private media institution stemmed from a petition for preliminary injunction filed before Judge Yusif Kaba, by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), against the Management of Voice FM 102.7, by and through their authorized representatives, and all other persons under their authority.
In the writ, the Court ordered the Management of Voice FM to “restrain” from “engaging in broadcasting on the frequency of 102.7.”
The court also ordered the Sheriff to take “possession and custody of any equipment or accessory” belonging to the respondents.
Addressing the media at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing last July, 2016, the than acting LTA chairperson Henry W. Benson said, “Voice FM has been operating as a commercial station without a permit for couple of years now. We tried to unsuccessfully to guide them through the right process of securing legitimate status through meetings of which they attended some and most were not,” Commissioner Benson said.
“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 frequencies were legitimately secured in 2012 by Liberia Web Radio, a non-commercial station which fulfilled all the requirements to operate in Liberia.
For his part, following the pronouncement by the LTA official, Woods Nyanton, Co-host of the Costa Show on Voice FM, told journalists 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.
Many Liberians who were opting for the reopening of the station hopes are now dashed, and now pondering over the destiny of the station.