The Association of Liberia Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) has condemned the indefinite closure and confiscation of broadcast equipment belonging to the privately owned, ROOTS FM Station, by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) acting upon an alleged court ordered issued by the Liberian government.
Police officers, acting upon an order from Liberia’s Solicitor General and Acting Minister of Justice, Cllr. Cyrenius Cephus, on Thursday, October 10, 2019, shut down Roots FM and seized the station’s broadcast equipment. Roots FM is owned and operated by Liberia’s talk show host, Henry Costa, who is a vocal critic of President George Manneh Weah and the Liberian government.
According to media reports, the Liberian government claimed Roots FM is one of three radio stations operating without valid licenses and authorization from the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).
In a press release issued on Thursday, October 10, 2019, ALJA said while it doesn’t favor and support most of Roots FM’s broadcast contents, it is however, troubled by the arbitrary manner in which the Liberian government shut down the station and the vandalism which accompanied the station’s closure.
The Americas based Liberian Journalists described the incident as unfortunate; and called on the Liberian government to immediately return the station’s broadcast equipment.
ALJA says while the government reserves the right to legally revoke or withdrawal the operational license of any broadcast entity in Liberia for acts inimical to the principles of broadcasting, and the peace and stability of Liberia, such right must be exercise with straight adherence to the rule of law.
The Association maintained that the barricading of Roots FM’s premises by officers of the LNP and the government’s seizure of the station’s broadcast equipment under the guise of enforcing an LTA law which requires the registration of all broadcast entities in Liberia, amount to an abuse of the laws of Liberia.
ALJA says it considers the government’s action to be extreme and intended to permanently shut the radio station and silence voices that are critical of the administration rather than serving as a deterrent to having the institution regularized its status with the LTA.
Touching on the importance of the media’s role in the country. ALJA stressed that a vibrant and independent media is crucial to the survival to Liberia’s fledgling democracy and warned the government against using the courts as weapons for the silencing of individuals and media institutions it considers critical of its performance.
Meanwhile, ALJA is calling on Liberian Journalists and talk show hosts, to exercise civility in the conduct of their professional responsibilities. ALJA says persistent inflammatory and insulting comments about the Liberian Presidency can often be counterproductive and create an unnecessary hostile environment. The organization stressed that freedom of speech comes along with social and ethical responsibilities.
The Association maintained the role of the Liberian media is to foster and consolidate the prevailing peace and stability in the country instead of driving a wedge between the government and the governed through divisive and inflammatory broadcast and publications.
Meanwhile, ALJA is cautioning Solicitor General Cephas to eschew his recently pronounced plan by his office to begin the monitoring of radio broadcast in Liberia with the sole purpose of weeding out journalists and shutting down media institutions that would fail to adhere to LTA’s regulations regarding broadcast.
ALJA says any attempt by Cllr. Cephus and his office to engage in such act would equate to a usurpation of the LTA’s statutory function since it’s the only agency of government that is responsible for such undertaking.