The Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) has temporarily shut Voice FM 102.7 Radio Station for its “failure to obtain operating permit over the last couple of years.”
Speaking at a special press briefing held yesterday at the Information Ministry on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, acting LTA chairperson Henry W. Benson told journalists, “Voice FM has been operating as a commercial station without a permit for couple of years now. We tried to unsuccessfully to guide them through the right process of securing legitimate status through meetings of which they attended some and most were not,” Commissioner Benson said.
“People continue to take the airwaves without any regard; LTA sees that as a clear violation, for which the LTA was established by law to regulate and will continue to do so. We have effectively shut down a radio station, beginning with Voice FM 102.7 and more to come, because we have to show that there is law and order in Liberia,” he declared.
Commissioner Benson said 102.7 frequency was legitimately secured in 2012 by Liberia Web Radio, a non-commercial station which fulfilled all the requirements to operate in Liberia.
Woods Nyanton, Co-host of the Costa Show on Voice FM, told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the LTA was in an error to disclose that the organization is operating without permit.
He said the Ministry of Information has set up a difficult process just to ensure that we don’t get a permit and the LTA needed to clearly tell the people of Liberia that, despite efforts made and readiness demonstrated by Voice FM to pay the require tax to government, the Ministry of
Information has decided not give permit to Voice FM.
“We are in partnership with the Liberia Web Radio, the official owner of the frequency of 102.7 and there are legal documents to prove that. We have been behind the government to regularize our status but MICAT has set up a difficult process because we are critical of the government and the people of Liberia can attest to that,” Mr. Nyanton said.
According to Benson, LTA has noticed over the years that people have come with no regard for the LTA and the Ministry of Information who are responsible to give clearances for establishing radio stations.
“We at the LTA do not have the authority to close or shut down stations,” Benson said. “We made our case to the Justice Ministry, who scrutinized our processes and saw merit in our case to clear the airwaves of stations operating without proper assigned frequencies. This is a national security measure. This is also a measure to make available scarce frequency to applicants who follow the right procedure,” Commissioner Benson said.
He explained that after going through couple of years of regularizing the country’s airwaves, most especially radio stations and television stations, the LTA has asked the Ministry of Justice through the court to shut down some radio stations and television stations.
“It doesn’t mean well for anyone to come from anywhere and open a radio station and say anything he or she wants to say without any authorization from the regulating body of the government,” he said.
“All we ask is, make sure that your station is regularized, because you are responsible for what you say, despite by law and by the objective of journalism,” Benson said, adding that, “We have come here to inform you that LTA is the institution established by this government to manage and effectively look after in terms of superintending the airwaves we enjoy. Every communication in this country, including radio stations, television stations and every thing that have to do with communication be regulated by LTA.”
In addition to the closure, the Civil Law Court summoned Voice FM for declaratory judgment to appear later this month.
The writ of summons said “You are hereby commanded to appear before the Civil Law Court to answer to the petition of the above-named in petition of declaratory judgment. To notify the respondent that upon their failure to do so, judgment will be rendered by default against them.”
According to him, after few hours, one of the sheriffs and other men wearing plain clothes entered the Voice FM facility and took away some materials belonging to the station, using a white pickup.