The Government of Liberia, through the Liberia Telecommunications Authority or LTA, in pursuit of debts, last weekend continued the closure of media houses in Monrovia.
Shockingly, Radio LIB24 in Sinkor and Shata FM in Careysburg– owned and operated by the Sarafina Ventures of Businessman-turned Politician Benoni Urey, on Saturday, August 13, 2016, were shut down as a result of overdue taxes-Government says.
With a writ from the Civil Law Court in Monrovia, the government used heavily armed Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police to effect the order to shut down LIB24 and its affiliate station –Shata FM, in the absence of any resistance.
Last Saturday’s action against the two followed similar move against Voice FM 102 a few weeks ago; the same action had already been taken against the National Chronicles Newspaper, with offices on Caret Street, more than a year ago – all for their indebtedness to the government for various periods as they relate to regularization with the LTA and other government agencies.
While we are very cognizant of the fact that taxation is a major source of revenue for the Government of Liberia to fund various public expenditures, as well as its legal consequence for failure to pay or evasion of or resistance to taxation, such punitive action(s) must entail a complete process.
But while the Government of Liberia is in hot pursuit of media institutions because of their failure to regularize their tax payments with the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, the very government to date is still heavily indebted to media institutions without any remorse of under-writing these financial obligations.
Granted last Saturday’s closure of LIB24 and other media instructions is the result of tax evasion or failure to pay taxes, is the government not conscious enough about its huge financial obligations to the media-amounts which sometimes are overdue for years?
Press Freedom is not just media pluralism or media tolerance by the government, but also empowerment whereby payments are made by the government for advertisements and other supplements so as to fully capacitate the sector.
It is no secret that the Government of Liberia is indebted to the Liberian media to the tone thousands and thousands of United States Dollars for many months and years now with no radical posture against the very government – yet still, the media is being hunted for so-called failure to pay taxes.
For the media to be effective and inefficient in tax payment annually, the government must meet up with its part of the deal because media institutions are overly reliant on advertisements and supplements to pay rents, salaries of journalists and support staff, as well as taxes.
But to deliberately delay and resist payments to media houses for jobs they have done and go after them only because they too owe taxes is not only a complete deceit, but a betrayal of the partnership that exists between the government and the media landscape of Liberia.
Media independence and vibrancy in Liberia continue to be retarded amid all of the available opportunities over the years, due to the strangulations by the government – and that’s the fact.
In the absence of financial independence, media growth and development in terms of vibrancy is far-fetched.
The Government of Liberia must do onto the media just as it would want it do onto it – pay the media and the media pays it. He who preaches equity must also come with clean hands.