Presidential Press Secretary J. Matthew Piah, jointly appearing on a talk show with Information Minister Eugene Nagbe on Prime 105.5 Fm Monday, 15 August, warned presidential hopeful Benoni Urey that neither he (Urey) nor any group will undermine Liberia’s peace.
“You will be absolutely mistaking. Not Urey, not any group of people will undermine the peace we enjoy. We will exercise our constitutional authority in consert with our friends and partners who invested so much in this country to keep us where we are to protect this country; protect the citizens and keep this place safe,” Piah said in response to alleged threats by Businessman-turned Politician Urey.
Though Piah had argued that it would be a mere waste of time to respond to Mr. Urey, however, saying as a government, “if anybody is underestimating our capacity to uphold this peace that we have here, watch and see.” “A presidential hopeful who will not see one Liberian as a Liberian and as a journalist, but sees him as a Mandingo man, as a former rebel, as an ex-combatant? And that’s the reason why most of what he says we don’t care. We hardly respond to him because it will be a mere waste of time – precious time,” Mr. Piah stressed.
The officials were in studio to clarify government’s closure of Mr. Urey’s LIB 24 broadcast house, which Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said, has been broadcasting via a frequency owned by the Sarafina Ventures and Communications that did not renew its expired license and was still indebted to the government with over US$50,000 in taxes covering five years.
Mr. Piah had earlier made a challenge that Mr. Urey will not achieve what President Sirleaf has achieved, including Medal of Freedom Award from the U.S and Nobel Peace Prize, arguing that the closure of LIB 24 was a court action in an effort to dismiss Mr. Urey’s claims that the Executive was trying to clamp down on free press.
In buttressing Mr. Piah, Minister Nagbe indicated that the Ministry of Justice asked the court for declaratory judgment to effect the closure of Sarafina Ventures which owned Love FM which broadcast through frequency 105.1 on which LIB 24 was operating before its closure on Saturday, 13 August. According to Mr. Nagbe, the government’s regulatory arm – the Liberia Telecommunication Authority or LTA, had insisted that changing the corporate name needed to be done legally so that the liabilities of the previous corporation, in this case Sarafina Ventures, are inherited by LIB 24.
Minister Nagbe ruled out concerns of editorial contents as factors that may have pushed the government to shut down LIB 24, but insisted that it was because over the years, the owners of Sarafina Ventures refused to regularize their status, pay their taxes and fees and legitimize their use of the radio frequency license.
He said there were over 50 radio stations broadcasting with the potential of a chaotic broadcast landscape if the spectrum was not managed meticulously. But talk show host Henry Costa phoned in during the program, counter-arguing that the government’s argument that transfer of ownership took place did not suffice, claiming that the executive was under pressure due to claims of bribing lawmakers to remove House Speaker Alex Tyler.
He also countered claims by Minister Nagbe that the station owed over $50,000, arguing that all fees and taxes combined for five years would not amount to $50,000 on grounds that the LTA charges US$2,800 per annum for spectrum license, while the Information Ministry charges between US$250 and $500.
By Winston W. Parley