By Tina S. Mehnpaine
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has lauded the ruling of the civil law court in Monrovia for restoring the operational rights or license of One Media Incorporated, owner of Punch FM and Punch TV.
CPJ, in a post on its official twitter handle, also expressed disappointment in the government of Liberia for objecting to the ruling of the lower court by taking an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of justice in the country.
CPJ is therefore calling on the government to drop the appeal and ensure that free and independent media flourish in the country.
“We welcome the court ruling restoring Punch FM’s right to operate, but we are disappointed that the government is appealing to the Supreme Court,” the CPJ said, adding, “Liberian authorities should drop the appeal and ensure free and independent media can flourish.”
Founded April 3, 1981 in the United States of America, the CPJ exists to advocate and protect journalists globally, promote freedom worldwide and defend the rights of journalists to report the news without fear. For over 30+years the committee has worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of journalists, Patrick Honnah being no exception.
Punch FM’s license was restored on Tuesday January 8, 2020 by the civil law court after a tense legal tussle that went on for many months. This ruling, which many have described as a victory for the Liberian media, came after the management of Punch on October 15, 2018 filed a lawsuit against the government. The station had filed a Petition, praying the Civil Law Court for Declaratory Judgment in the matter and have its rights to operate restored.
It claimed in the petition that more than one year has elapsed since it completed its registration to operate radio and television stations, but has been denied by the Information Ministry, under the guise of reviewing its license application.
The government announced the suspension of the license on June 18, 2018. At the time, the government claimed the decision was aimed at reviewing the regulatory regime due to technical and administrative anomalies including duplication of frequencies to radio and television operators, and incorrect designations and submissions.
Its statement indicates that the review process began on June 20, 2018, and institutions concerned were requested to submit themselves to the review process.
It could be recalled in a letter to the US Embassy accredited near Monrovia last year, the PUNCH management said that immediately upon the announcement of the launch of PUNCH FM and the erection of the billboard, its CEO, Patrick Honnah and other Executives of the institution came under “blistering verbal attacks from operatives and surrogates of the Government.”