Government has shut down LIB 24 Radio Station, formerly Love FM of businessman turned politician Mr. Benonie Urey, over claims of using an expired license previously awarded to Sarafina Ventures and Communications Incorporated for the use of frequency 105.1 Fm.
Justice Ministry authorities accused Sarafina Ventures and Communications Inc. of alleged failure to pay its license and other fees for over five years, claiming that several invoices were sent to Sarafina Ventures and Communications dating back to 2010.
The closure of LIB 24 over the weekend grew out of a petition for declaratory judgment and petition for preliminary injunction filed by the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the LTA. The broadcast house’s closure by the Justice Ministry on behalf of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority or LTA follows another recent closure of Voice FM in early July by the LTA through the court process over taxes claims and alleged hijacking of frequencies.
Officials at the Justice Ministry say the LTA filed a complaint with the court claiming that Sarafina Ventures and Communications had not renewed the expired license for frequency 105.1 and unilaterally transferred it to LIB 24 Inc without the consent of the LTA in violation of Part VI, Section 15(1) and Section 20 of the LTA Regulations.
LTA says it does not see the transfer as just a name change from Sarafina Venture to LIB 24 Inc. on grounds that Sarafina Ventures and Communications Inc. and LIB 24 Inc. are two distinct entities with two distinct Articles of Incorporations.
The LTA said the license was issued to Sarafina Ventures and Communications Inc. to operate a commercial FM Broadcast Station on the assigned frequency 105.1 MHZ which license has not been renewed nor its fees and others paid in more than five year.
Justice Ministry claims that representatives of LIB 24 tried numerous times to obstruct the sheriff of the court; and riot officers from the Police Support Unit or PSU of the Liberia National Police were said to be deployed during the closure of LIB 24’s 10th Street Office to stop broadcast via frequency 105.1. The Justice Ministry claims that Part VI, Section 15(1) and Section 20 of the LTA Regulations 0001(2008) which provides that “Any Licensee wishing to transfer ownership or control of the License shall apply to the LTA in writing at least ninety days prior to the proposed date of transfer, or such other period as may be determined by the LTA,” have been violated.
The government regulatory arm insists that no person shall operate radio communication equipment or make any use of radio frequencies except in accordance with a radio spectrum license or radio frequency
authorization issued by the LTA, in keeping with Part VI, Section 25(1) of the Telecommunications Act (2007).
Prior to resorting to court action, LTA claims to have had series of discussions and exchange of communication over several years with the management of Sarafina Ventures and Communications Inc. to have the corporation accede to the requirements, pay the required fees and legitimize its operations, but station allegedly failed to do so.
By Winston W. Parley