A privately- run local radio station Voice 102.7 FM has been shutdown by Liberian Government through the Liberia Telecommunication Authority or LTA, over claims that it is being operated illegally here.
The LTA accused the management of Voice FM of “persistent and blatant violation” of the Telecommunication Act in a petition earlier filed with the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, thereby requesting the court to declare and affirm its rights and authority to shut down any station that operates arbitrarily without license.
LTA announced the closure Voice FM on Monday, 4th July calling it “a pirate station” that has been operating commercially here on an unassigned frequency of 102.7 FM. One of the key runners of Voice FM, Mr. Henry Costa, is said to be based in a foreign country, while broadcasting live talk shows daily on the station along with his Liberian-based co- host.
The station faces accusations from government’s regulatory arm of alleged refusal to obtain requisite broadcast license and to pay required fees and taxes. The authorities say it has rather operated illegally, hijacking frequencies and posing national security threat to the country.
Though reporters were only permitted by court officials to take note from relevant court records instead of making available any photocopy, the documents suggest that the Civil Law Court had already summoned Voice FM to appear on 20 June at 10 a.m.
In the order, the court instructed the clerk to insert a clause, notifying the entity to file its resistance or formal appearance … on or before 14 July; as failure on the part of Voice FM, judgment would be rendered against it by default.
On Monday, 4th July Acting LTA Commissioner Mr. Henry Benson reemphasized at a hastily called press conference at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill that Voice FM has operated as a commercial station without a permit for a couple of years.
He argued that the decision of the management of Voice FM to do illegal business in the country clearly violates the Act that established the LTA, adding “We tried unsuccessfully to guide” Voice FM through the right process of securing legitimate status.
According to him, the LTA called numerous meetings and Voice FM attended some, but failed to attend most of those meetings, without saying what was discussed in those meetings. Mr. Benson says after exhaustive efforts to resolve the issue barring Voice FM from operating legitimately, the LTA forwarded a list of stations to the Ministry of Justice for closure since according to him, theregulatory body does not have the authority to close stations down.
He said the case was scrutinized by the Justice Ministry, which saw merit to clear the airwaves of stations operating without assigned frequencies as part of national security measures, and to also make available scarce frequency to applicants who followed the right procedures.
Neither Mr. Henry Costa nor any member of the station was available for reaction to the closure.
By Winston W. Parley and Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne