MONROVIA – The protracted legal tussle between the government of Liberia and the One Media Incorporated, owner of Punch FM, was finally settled yesterday when the Supreme Court in a majority verdict ruled in favor of One Media and ordered the issuance of an operational license or permit to Punch FM; though there was no cost attached to the ruling.
According to our correspondent who covered the closing proceedings, four of the five Justices of the apex court, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Jamesetta Wolokollie, Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh and Yussif Kaba did sign the ruling, while Joseph N. Nagbe being out of the Bailiwick of Liberia did not hear and participate in the determination of this case, hence, he did not sign the judgment.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, the final ruling of the Civil law court is hereby affirmed for reasons detailed in the opinion of this court out of which this judgment emanated. The appellant’s appeal is denied. The clerk of this court is hereby ordered to send a mandate to the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law court, Montserrado County, commanding the judge presiding therein to resume jurisdiction over this case and give effect to this judgment. Costs are disallowed. And it is hereby so ordered”, the ruling read.
Before arriving at the verdict, the Supreme Court maintained that the lower court that entertained the case from the initial stage of the case had the legal rights and jurisdiction to make a determination in the case.
“That courts of record have the authority to declare rights, status and other legal relations, whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. Hence, the trial court properly assumed jurisdiction over the petition for declaratory judgment and to declare the rights of the appellee under the license granted the appellee by the appellant.
“That whilst the Executive Law Rev. code 1231 grants the appellant the authority to regulate the Fourth Estate, however, in the present case, the appellant violates the appellee’s constitutional right to due process when it suspended the appellee’s license without conducting a hearing and that the continued closure of the appellee’s premises without any justifiable reason violates the appellee’s rights in many respects”, the judgment further stated.
One Media had gone to court to challenge the refusal of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) for refusing to issue her operational permit according to the media outlet after meeting every requirement including authority from the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and payment of fees to the government’s coffers through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
One Media had approached the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice which issued a writ of petition on October 15, 2019 where One Media was introduced as an established and registered institution in keeping with laws of Liberia and stated that its subsidiary, the Punch FM’s license was suspended as a result of pronouncement of reviewing new radio and television frequencies from January 1 to June 2018, by the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism.