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Liberia news

Court Snubs Voice Fm

The Civil Law Court “A” at the Temple of Justice has dismissed a motion to vacate preliminary injunction filed by talk-show host Henry Costa’s Voice 102.7 FM, seeking to annul the prosecutors’ petition for preliminary injunction that led to the closure of the radio station early July.

While dismissing the station’s motion to vacate the preliminary injunction on Friday, 29 July, Judge Yusif D. Kaba made the prosecution’s petition permanent [sustained], pending the outcome of the main case filed against the station for a declaratory judgment.

During the time the prosecution’s injunction will remain against Voice FM, the main case filed by the Liberia Telecommunication Authority or LTA will have to be heard and decided by the court before a determination can be made on the fate of the station over claims of unpaid taxes and hijacking frequencies.

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“There is no dispute that the regulatory agency [LTA] did not issue any license in the name of the Respondent Voice FM for the operation of radio communication equipment or for the use of frequency 102.7,” Judge Kaba said.

Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, who represents Mr. Costa’s Voice FM key runner who has, for some time, been airing his live talk-show from the United States, appeared in a jam packed courtroom Friday for the ruling.

In a related development, Judge Kaba has ordered an investigation into claims levied against court officers of taking cash of US$800 and L$30,000 belonging to Costa Show co-host Woods Nyanton, as well as laptops.

“The court takes seriously the allegations that the court officers [took] cash and personal belongings of staff of the Respondent. This will be clearly in violation of the court’s order should it be established by evidence,” the judge said.

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The management of Voice FM had conceded to LTA’s argument that the act creating the government regulatory body provides that no person shall operate radio communication equipment or make any use of radio frequency except in accordance with the radio spectrum license or radio frequency authorization issued by the LTA.

But Voice FM denied hijacking frequency 102.7, though it also admits that the contested frequency is owned by the Liberia Web Radio which had, through its Board Chairman, Mr. Kalfa Nyamah, allegedly informed the LTA and Ministry of Information about a new management team before its license expired in 2014.

Voice FM Management accused the LTA and Information Ministry of making timely response to issue of a new management taking over frequency 102.7; and further claimed that Liberia Web Radio paid into government revenue a media regulatory bill and submitted all requirements on 3 February 2015 based on the Ministry’s advice.

But Judge Kaba observed that the LTA has said that the frequency 102.7 was allotted to the Liberia Web Radio by license in 2013 for one calendar year, with a provision that the frequency shall not be assigned or transferred to another person or entity without prior written consent of the LTA.

“… Can it be said then that an injunctive relief sought by the regulatory agency to avoid the violation of this Act is an act in bad faith?” Judge Kaba wondered, before stressing that a regulatory agency was duty- bound to ensure compliance with the regulations which it created to police.

Judge Kaba said the respondent has never been licensed by the regulatory agency LTA to operate radio communication equipment or given the authority to use the frequency in question.

“Therefore, to allow the Respondent to operate such equipment will be tantamount to giving blanket license to all to violate the regulations,” he said.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by George Barpeen

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