“General Power” Leads Roots FM Shutdown

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Ex-rebel Gen. Power (a.k.a. Augustine Nagbe) leads riot police and government sympathizers to rescue Freedom FM, following the shutdown of Roots FM.

Augustine Nagbe, alias “General Power,” an ex-rebel general, on Thursday, October 10, 2019, led a heavily armed officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to the premises of Roots FM 102.7 to effect the closure of the radio station.

The station is owned and operated by Henry Pedro Costa, whose thought-provoking daily morning Talk Show, “The Costa Show” which has been very critical of the administration of President George Manneh Weah, has dominated the airwaves, attracting many listeners.

Gen. Power, who was then instructing the LNP to violently take the radio off air for “violating section 15 of the Telecommunication Act of 2007 and Chapter 11 section 11.2(d) of the criminal procedure law,” was himself reportedly removing some of the broadcast equipment, while ordering the police to arrest anyone in sight that would make attempt to defend the station.

He claimed that the station was operating without a valid license, as well as illegally using its broadcast equipment to tarnish the good character of the government and its officials.

The shutting down of the station caused a stir in central Monrovia as normal commercial activities were momentarily halted, including free movement of traffic. The police, acting on the orders of Gen. Power in the full glare of the many onlookers, arrested four individuals, who government supporters identified as “trouble makers.” One persons reportedly sustained injuries to the head.

The shutting down of the Roots FM radio station led to rioting in central Monrovia, resulting in businesses shutting their doors and the obstruction of free movement of traffic and people.

Gen. Power said Henry P. Costa, manager of Roots F.M. cannot keep using the station to incite citizens against the government, while operating illegally.

He said if Costa keeps insulting the President, and preaching hate massages, “I, Gen. Power, will arrest him to bear the full weight of the law, because Liberia is not a lawless country.” Power’s statement was greeted with mixed reactions from the curious-looking crowd, some of them scolding him, while others, mainly government supporters, applauding him.

When the Daily Observer asked whether he would institute a similar measure against Freedom F.M. which the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey, has recommended to the government for closure due to violation of professional ethics by inciting the public, as was recommended for Roots FM, Gen. Power refused to comment.

Freedom FM is owned and operated by Deputy National Security Agency (NSA) Director Sam T. Siryon.

Costa supporters, who had earlier gathered to resist the station being taken off the air, wanted to resist the police shutting down the station for being critical of Liberia’s footballing president George Weah.

The police later extended their reach to protect Freedom FM from the supporters of Costa, who were throwing stones at the station, while equally requesting the closure of Freedom F.M., because its also preached the same messages, but in favor of the government.

Shortly after the police arrived at the Freedom FM, there were groups of youngsters, who claimed to be members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), and supporters of the station. They had gathered there protect against those they perceived as Costa’s supporters from destroying the station’s broadcast equipment.

Costa supporters gathered at Freedom FM shortly after the closure of Roots FM, throwing stones and calling for Freedom FM’s immediate shutdown. In the near “free-for-all melee that ensued between the two forces, some by-standers, whose vehicles were parked for business suffered the effect as some of the vehicles’ windshields got smashed.

“Those guys arrested four men by the orders of the former rebel fighter (General Power), and thought we were throwing stones at Freedom FM. This is absolutely false and misleading the public,” some those who were there claiming to be in defense of Henry Costa were overheard saying.

The police, without further investigation, sent the four arrested persons to its headquarters, but the Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, at the Ministry of Information’s regular Thursday press conference, said those arrested in connection with yesterday’s riot will face the full weight of the law.

Cllr. Cephus said the police were acting based on a search and seizure warrant, which Stipendiary Magistrate Ernest F. Bana, of the Monrovia City Court, had served the police.

The warrant states that the purpose is to request for the discovery and seizure of transmitters, keyboards and mixers; microphone, headphones, computer, stabilizers, cables, and antennas, which they believe to be on the premises.

But Cllr. Cephus said the closure of Roots FM is as the result of Henry Costa inciting the public to stage a protest recently on the grounds of the Catholic Hospital when Ms. Jestina Taylor was to be taken to the LNP headquarters for investigation.

He said the Roots FM was used by Costa to preach hate messages, rioting and public incitement against the government that is capable to bring instability to the country.

In the aftermath of the event, the officers broke a steel gate and stormed the offices of Roots FM, shortly after its breakfast program, The Costa Show, discussed alleged wasteful spending by President Weah, while “his people were suffering.”

Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean confirmed that riot police had been dispatched after his office had received a letter from the LTA, complaining that the station and two others were “operating illegally”, and without their respective licenses.

The justice minister did not say why the government did not turn to the courts to enforce the closure, as required by law.

As police hammered the gate to enter the station, Henry Costa, its US-based owner who hosts the show via the internet, called on his followers to come and “rescue” the station. However, the police were by then all over the place spraying tear gas in the air.

“We have to hold together; don’t let them take our equipment away,” Costa pleaded.

“I am watching the thing live as they break into our radio station,” he cried out in vain. As Costa spoke, the banging of hammers on the gate could be heard.

In response to his call, eyewitnesses say more than 400 people arrived at the station within minutes, but this did not stop the police from shutting the station down.

An eyewitness calling from a nearby building told the BBC he saw police loading the station’s broadcast equipment into a waiting vehicle after it had been forced off-air.

Roots FM has had a bad relationship with President Weah’s government since the former footballer assumed the presidency nearly two years ago.

Before Thursday’s action, the station said it was in compliance with all broadcast regulations, and had asked for a renewal of its licence.

PUL Probe Court Action

In the wake of the confusion, PUL president Charles Coffey, in a statement, said the institution will probe the Court action against Roots FM, and relevant state actors to find a way out in accordance with the law.

Coffey said the Union maintains that “the rule of law is the best recipe for good governance in sustaining the country’s growing democracy.”

UP condemns court action

For the erstwhile ruling Unity Party (UP) in a press release, condemned the closure of Roots FM, adding that  press freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Liberia, and any infringement on such rights is a “gross violation of the Constitution.”

The party in a statement signed by Mohammed Ali, national assistant secretary-general, publicity, and outreach, said in the unlikely event where a writ was served by a court of competent jurisdiction for the closure of Roots FM, “there is no law anywhere in Liberia that calls for the vandalism of any station or property.”

“Sadly, what we witnessed this morning (yesterday) was a state-sponsored act of vandalism carried out by heavily armed police force that has been turned into a partisan police force, and an institution that is now being used to clamp down on press freedom and freedom of speech,” Ali said.

He said private radio stations are one of the media through which ordinary citizens and members of the oppositions freely express themselves as the station (ELBC) is that sponsored by taxpayers’ money is a no go zone for oppositions and critical voices.

He said the closure of Roots FM by the government through the use of force by heavily armed police officers shows how serious the George Weah-led government is in clamping down on free speech and freedom of the press.

Ali continued: “As we edge closer to the 2020 Senatorial election, the government has designed a grand plan to ensure that the voices of the poor suffering masses, and the opposition community are silenced. Not only that the government intends to silence the voices of the people, but also to put ordinary Liberians out of job in an economy that is worsening on a daily basis due to poor leadership, unprecedented high level of corruption, and ineptness of the economic management team.

He said UP will work with members of the four Collaborating Political Parties to explore all legal and political means to ensure the reopening of Roots FM.

National Democratic Coalition Condemns Gov’t Action 

Alaric Tokpa, National Chair of the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), also condemned the attacked on Roots FM and free speech in Liberia. He therefore called on all progressive social democrats in Liberia and abroad to step up the campaign for the democratization of Liberia.

Mr. Tokpa said the Weah government is incapable of sustaining the democratic culture of Liberia that is why they have emerged into a “dangerous dictatorship.”

He said the Weah’s administration had passed a “death sentence on democracy.”

“Today, those in and outside of government; the sycophants and very dangerous opportunists, as well as all keen observers of the ongoing drama in central Monrovia, bear witness to a reality that confirms our earlier statement,” Mr. Tokpa said.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Everybody must follow the constitution.
    FMs should be restored as well as all damages.
    We all must support Liberty, Freedom of speech for all.
    Things are not going well?
    Violence will not bring any development.
    Respect each other.
    God bless.

        • The President is the personification of dignity, authority, and power. Costa is a rude, incompetent, irresponsible, unprofessional, and extremely indecent and immoral scumbag who should never be given license to broadcast.

        • Ernest Johnson, the sitting president is not God, but nobody goes around insulting other people’s mother, inciing Liberian to riot. Costa ‘s action has the propensity to bring by serious conflict. Do you agree with costa threatening to destroy the newly built Robert International Airport? Is that the man you want to support because of your hatre for George Weah? Costa will not be allowed to step the soil of Liberia without been arrested

  2. “We have to hold together”. You coward and hypocrite Henry Costa. Don’t you know you are a criminal? You will sit your BEHIND in the U.S. and “hold together” in Liberia?? The STATE has taken the right decision and action to protect compelling public safety, and national security concerns. This government has been too unnecessarily over-tolerant with this station and its so called proprietors ABUSING THEIR RIGHTS TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE LIBERIAN NATION.

  3. One thing we missing is that, costa have not been holding on to our growth n development in Liberia. If costa wasn’t speaking up, off many we were going to have that bad fish deal signed, we were not going to notice lots of ills in our society.
    Costa is out now, will the rate go down now, will inflation stop, will civil servants get their pay? Will the president declare his assets ? Costa is not our problem!!!!!! Don’t b fooled !!!

    • Costa’s owner and paymaster held our national growth by stealing our money and using that very stolen money on Costa and his radio station to destroy our peace, stability, safety, and nation. Costa has used that to commit crimes. Government is very very very right to close him down. I hope government closes him and his station down for good.

  4. The government is wrong for doing what they did and those that supporting the action need to be realistic about the situations on the ground. They talking about rules of law to be excercise, where is the rules of law applied here? There is no law in our constitution that say police or government can close entity by removing equipments or merchandise from the location by the means of violence. The closure of the station should have come from the court through written communication to the owner and management of the station, and not by police as demonstrated in this situation. If management had failed to honour the court decision or orders, then the law enforcement will get involved. The government took the very law they are talking about into their hands and that’s undemocratic to the rule of law.

    This is very troubling and bad recipe for our country. Let us not head in the direction that took innocent lives of Liberians for 14 years and destroyed our infrastructure beyond one imagination. Is this what we want again to occurred in Liberia? I will say no but it seem like leadership is heading in that direction because the people are getting fed up with the idea of turning Liberia into one part state. If Henry Pedro Costa can insight such violence against this administration and the people listen to him? Then the government is not in control, meaning, the country is sitting on a timing bomb because the people has lost their hopes in the administration and will listen to anyone for redemption. The government need to listen to the cry and calls from the people and this is not the way forward if the regime need peace as they claimed.

    Why did the government had to wait for Costa to called for Jestina Taylor to be released before they did? Where is the rule of law that they are talking about? The very government action and behaviour has given Henry Costa more and more popularity than they think. The radio talk show is where most Liberians get facts from about realities in Liberia and shouting it down give the Peoples reasons to believed more in Costa now because government action speaks volume. So now that Costa is off the air waves in Liberia, who’s Next?

  5. The war and economic crime court is coming for power them. The people they kill in our country will not go free because they will pay for it

  6. The War & Economic Crime court could stop the guilties from politic in Liberia?.
    Respect each other. Discuss the issues that will forward the country.

    To all players, Liberia will NOT go back into Lawlessness! The democratic process will stay.
    Freedom of speech, Liberty, respect for all.
    God bless your.

  7. Who is ” general power” is he a member of the Liberian national police force or is he a former rebel being use to intimidate the citizens of Liberia, don’t the Liberian national police force have commanders/supervisor to lead them instead of bringing in former rebels to carry out thier terrorist attacks on a new outlet , it is clear that this government is leading this country down a dark road of dictatorship and lawlessness.

    • Yes, so who is general power, is he part of the Weah lead government, or they brought himin to do the dirty work for the president and his people?

  8. War criminals don’t change if they are not held accountable for their actions. I wish President George Weah could take off his soccer jersey and put on his presidential jersey. Liberia need leadership.

  9. We can/should not ABUSE DEMOCRACY, in order to RENDER JUDGMENT. Let’s get to the ROOTS of the matter. Why was ROOT FM ordered to “CLOSE Give The Administration benefit of the doubt. Let the administration prove their case. That’s what The Democratic process is all about-“DEMOCRACY”.

  10. Correction: It should read:Then, civil courts should issue a writ of injunction and not the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) which ordered a cease and desist warrant.

  11. The problem with most of you is ignorance and your unwillingness to learn or engage research. This radio station is operating without license. And on top of that the very radio station goes on an irresponsible and unruly conduct by insulting people and the parents of authorities, while violating article 15 of the Liberian Constitution. You people nèed to surf the news of other countries on similar SHUTDOWNS, and you are bound to realize that in other countries, the government does not seek court orders before confiscation and shutting down.

    • Matilda Witherspoon, you mentioned in your comment that ” the problem with most of you is ignorance and your unwillingness to learn or engage in research”. In this regard, I would like to know the source and when you conducted your research?
      On the hand, Costa sent a letter of “License Renewal” to LTA on August 8,2019 for Root FM,but LTA failed to renew the license of the aforesaid radio station. Due to the failure or delay in renewing Root FM license, he was told to operate by LTA.
      See Daily Observer and Costa’s talk show -10/11/2019
      respectively.

      • Can you and Costa prove by documentary evidence that he wrote a letter on August 8 dut LTA failed to renew his license but he was told to keep running the station? Costa will quickly displace such documents on social media, let him do it now to prove GOL wrong

  12. The single point that everybody agrees on, when it to comes to the closure of Roots FM, is the tone that it often deploys in delivering its messages.

    Besides, the public outcry directed against the government, is the manner in which it conducted the closure! Moreover, we live in a democratic society, and by this token, nobody is above the law including the president.

    You succinctly stated that similar episodes do transpire in other countries, and nobody dares to question the government. However, such thinking is fallacious because acts of abuses of power that occur in other countries do not make them justifiable in Liberia.

    “…He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” The social discourse within the Liberian political landscape has become toxic, and it is characterized by emotional labeling, blame shifting, and personal attacks. This even includes some government ministers whom the nation regards as quintessential examples of good leadership, but nevertheless, they often visit social media sites to spew anti-Congau venom against certain segments of the population. Have we forgotten the rants of Deputy Information Minister Fahngon?

    Maybe if we all can soften our tone in the way we approach the issues that affect us all, then we can begin to find some common grounds.

  13. Daily Observer,

    Your “former footballer” news is dead on arrival.
    His Excellency President Dr. George Manneh Weah is the President of the Republic of Liberia. If you don’t like it, smoke it.

    Former footballer, former footballer, so what?
    NONSENSE!!!!!!!

  14. You aren’t seen anything yet. Those who put the football man in power will suffer until they force him out of that Executive Mansion. For me, I am happy that Liberians will learn how to choose a leader, not to choose a leader base on a supply of bags of rice. Who in his right mind will ever elect a football man president of a country like Liberia, a 172 years-old independent nation and a step child of great United States of America. It is a shame. We Liberians on this side of the Atlantic are a laughing stock.

    I was in Liberia for the runoff election in 2017 when a family member told me he voting for Weah, because Weah had five ships full of bags of rice waiting to get on shore as soon he was inaugurated. But, recently, the family member called if I could sent him some money to buy rice. He had no for his family of five. We are starving, he says. “You will die from hunger, young man. No penny from me. Go to Weah,” I told him. That is my punishment for any of my family members who made rash voting decision.
    So, hold on, folks. Wish you the best for 12 years in a dictatorial environment. Just use to it. Maybe after 12 years, the Constitution would be amended for the president to go for life.
    Happy Thanksgiving from New York City!

  15. Gebrier Rob,

    Gebrier, please forgive your family people because of their error in judgement regarding the choice they made. Things are rough and tough in Liberia. I have been in the country now for three months. I see suffering. Because of harmonization, a lot of people, especially civil servant employees, have not been paid for nearly four months. So, please help your relatives.

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