“President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who for over 35 years raised her voice against past governments while agitating against societal ills that kept the Liberian masses marginalized for decades, is gradually turning into a monster that might very soon become uncontrollable,” opposition political leader, Benoni Urey has declared.
Mr. Urey stated that the President, who was oppressed by past regimes, has herself, turned an oppressor and is engaging in tactics to silence opposition political leaders who are critical of her government.
An outraged Urey was addressing a press conference in Monrovia hours after his media house, Sarafina Ventures Incorporated (SVI), which operates Love TV and LIB 24 FM 105.1, was summarily closed down by the Liberian government on Saturday, August 13.
Government said Mr. Urey’s media house was operating “illegally.”
“The prominence gained during her days of activism,” said Mr. Urey, who is head of the opposition All Liberian Party, “landed her the Liberian presidency.”
Urey believes that the President needs to live by those tenets for which she advocated, rather than deviating from them.
“It is a shame that the President who for so many years fought for free speech and press is the same one that is fighting against it,” he told the press conference last Saturday, adding that the President does not care anymore and [feels she] can do anything considering that her tenure has almost ended. So she wants to jeopardize Liberia’s young democracy and relative peace enjoyed over the past few years.
“All these actions clearly indicate that she is out for something different, and we need to beware and careful,” Mr. Urey warned.
He posted on his social media – Facebook page— “Fellow Liberians, instead of our national security apparatus working to curb the alarming rate of armed robbery in the country, which has become a nightmare for our citizens, they spent their time at a meeting [last weekend] to plot on how to crackdown yet again on freedom of speech. Today, the government shut down my radio station, LIB24 FM, under heavy ERU police and NSA presence.
“We all know that the real reason for the shutdown of both Voice and LIB24 TV & FM is not because of its failure to comply with requirements, but because of our critical stance against the government on national issues. This attack brings back fresh memories of our previous elections.”
He declared, “I, Benoni Urey, say enough is enough. We have been patient; we have played our part in ensuring that there is peace and stability in Liberia. We will do everything within the confines of the law to ensure that our constitutional rights are protected. We will resist any draconian attempt by this government to further muzzle the free press in the hope of advancing their 2017 political agenda.”
Meanwhile, the government, through the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, in a statement, said that the Civil Law Court effectuated the closure of Mr. Urey’s media house based on a “Petition for Preliminary Injunction growing out of a Petition for Declaratory Judgment filed by the
Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) through the Ministry of Justice.”
The statement, under the signature of Deputy Information Minister Isaac Jackson further stated that “The closure of the station is predicated upon the fact that the entity has not regularized its status nor paid its license and other fees for over 5 years in keeping with relevant provisions of the Telecommunications Licensing Authorization Regulations.
“LTA regulations also require that any use of radio frequencies must be in accordance with a valid radio spectrum license or radio frequency authorization.”
Min. Jackson also stated: “In addition to the station’s failure to regularize its status in keeping with law, Sarafina Ventures and Communications Inc. (Love FM 105.1 and Love TV Channel 7) unilaterally and without prior written consent of the LTA, transferred the frequency 105.1 to another corporation, LIB-24 Incorporated, which operated LIB 24 Radio prior to the closure.”
“The unilateral transfer of the frequency 105.1 to LIB24 Inc. without the expressed consent of the LTA is in violation of Part VI, Section 15(1) and Section 20 of the LTA Regulations 0001(2008) which provides that ‘any Licensee wishing to transfer ownership or control of the License shall apply to the LTA in writing at least ninety days prior to the proposed date of transfer, or such other period as may be determined by the LTA’.
Meanwhile, on the day of the closure, more than 25 officers of the Liberia National Police, Police Support Unit (LNP/PSU) stood guard outside the premises as court officers carried out the closure.
Many angry bystanders who witnessed what was happening on 10th Street in Sinkor, where Mr. Urey’s media house is located, said some very nasty words against the government.
One of them, who identified himself as Emmanuel J. Collins, said the government was only closing the station because Henry Costa, who is the lead host of the Costa Show, had said on Friday, August 12 that President Sirleaf was the “Big Boy 1” of the infamous Global Witness alleged Sable Mining bribery case.
It’s exactly one month and a week after Costa’s Voice FM 102 was shut down, on July 4, 2016, by the Civil Law Court. Staffers and sympathizers of the Voice FM have continued to blame the government for being behind the closure because of Costa’s critical stance on national issues.
LIB 24 began to relay the Costa Show, when Henry Costa and his co-host, Wood Nyanton, began broadcasting over the Internet a few days ago.
Also on Facebook, the government continues to receive a huge backlash from ordinary Liberians.