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Gov’t will not yield to blackmail

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The Liberian Government Tuesday said it will not yield to any form of blackmail under the pretext of exercising freedom of expression.In a press statement issued Tuesday January 19, in response to a newspaper report which purportedly quoted the Management of Radio Bushrod (D-15 Radio), as giving the Liberian Government a 48-hour ultimatum to publish an indictment drawn against Mr. Henry Pedro Costa or it will go ahead to grant him air time on their platform, the government said it considers such ultimatum as a form of threat.

It also called on the Management of D-15 FM Station to reconsider the gravity of such statement which has the potential to undermine the rule of law and create unnecessary tension.

The government statement reminds all media institutions that while it will do nothing to stifle free speech, it will not however submit to any form of blackmail under the pretext of exercising freedom of expression.

It further stated that under the Criminal Procedure Law, specifically Title 2, Liberian Codes of Law revised, Chapter 15, section 15.14(2) titled: “Secrecy of proceedings” states: “Disclosure concerning indictment before arrest– Except to the extent necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant of arrest or summons, no person shall disclose the finding of an indictment until the person charged therein is in custody or has given bail. A violation of this provision shall be punishable as contempt of court.”

“Pursuant to the provision of the Criminal Procedure Law, the Government is under no legal obligation whatsoever to unveil an indictment drawn against a Liberian citizen until the person named in the indictment is arrested, the state said.

According to the government release, Costa was undergoing investigation for laissez passer fraud at the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) under the custody of the law when his counsel, Findley Karnga signed for, and obtained Costa’s living body, with the firm assurance of producing him whenever he was needed, but has not been seen since then.

The Government of Liberia therefore called on Cllr. Karnga to make good his promise to unconditionally turn over Costa to the Liberian Immigration Service. On Sunday Costa in a social media post announced plans by Radio Bushrod (D15 Radio) to begin hosting his program.

But the government in a statement issued late Sunday evening said Costa who fled the country in 2020 after a writ was issued for his arrest in a criminal matter is still wanted by the law.

“The government informed the station’s Management that Costa, as a fugitive from Liberian justice, cannot host radio programs meant to communicate to Liberian audience while in the United States. Any act contrary to said notice will be a violation of the terms of the permit issued by the Ministry of Information and licensing conditions promulgated under the Telecommunications Act of Liberia.

Everyone, including broadcasters, has to be held accountable for what they communicate. Article 15 of the Liberian constitution states that “every person shall have the right to freedom of speech, being responsible for the abuse thereof”. If one is injured by a fugitive broadcasting from the United States, there would be no available redress. The Government has a responsibility to protect the public.

Any station, including D15, which continues in this path in utter violation of the laws of Liberia will have their permit and license revoked. The use of the airwaves is a license, granted by the Liberian government to those who meet prescribed criteria.

Therefore, the government will leave no stone unturned in the scrupulous implementation of the laws of Liberia, with sensitivity to protecting the rights and obligations of free speech, the statement concluded.

Days after the brutal end of the much trumpeted December 30th “Weah Steps Down” protest here, which actually took place on January 6th, 2020 thanks to Liberia’s foreign partners, including the United States and the European Union intervention to calm the tension that led to the rescheduled date for the protest, Mr. Costa decided to leave the country for the United States.

Bang! He was arrested at Liberia’s international airport by local immigration officers on allegations that he had forged his traveling document.

Ahead of the December 30th protest, Costa entered Liberia via Accra, Ghana with a laisser passer, (travel certificate) a temporary travel document issue to a person instead of his passport.

Upon his arrest by Liberian authorities, he was taken to the Liberian Immigration headquarters to answer questions on as to how he obtained the document which is allegedly fake. But Costa has since disputed the claim saying, that local authorities swapped his travel papers in their bid to implicate him.

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