“Voice FM will be back on the airwaves with or without justice from the court!” These were part of the strong and emotional remarks last Thursday, July 14, from Mr. Henry P. Costa, owner of Voice FM 102.7, which was ‘arbitrarily’ shut down by a court order 14 days ago, on July 4.
Speaking to journalists and fans outside the locked Voice FM offices on Ashmun Street Thursday, July 14, Costa, whose provocative on-air style has earned him a lot of enemies in high places, defiantly stated that he and his staff will reopen their station, vowing that this week would be the last for the Costa Show to be off the airwaves.
“One thing they can’t take is our right to speak; it is our constitutional right. Voice FM will be back on the airwaves, with or without justice from the court. Next week is the last week that we are going to be off the air,” he bellowed to rounds of applause from supporters.
The few hundred supporters, mostly young men in their 20s and some older folks, intermittently chanted battle cries, political slogans and sang songs as Costa, who they described as a “Voice of the Voiceless,” spoke passionately to them and the press.
“We’re off the air, look what they did in Gbarnga! They butchered the Code of Conduct that was signed into law by this same President, who was the one who approved the Code into law. She was present when it was butchered,” he stated.
Asking a rhetorical question, he said: “Does that tell you she means well for this country?” to which his supporters shouted the loudest: “No…”
Costa then boastfully said: “They know what we would have done if we were on the air. We would have put them on our knees and spanked their behinds by exposing their deeds on the radio.” This statement drew even louder chants from the very charged young men and women, who created a human shield around him as he spoke.
One of them, who identified himself as Eric Jensen from the Monrovia suburb of Duala, remarked: “They say Costa can only be in America and make all the big mouth, now our brabi is here and talking the same things he can say on the radio…Costa, you the man!”
Saying that he was prepared to go to jail, Costa nonetheless admonished his followers to be peaceful as they gathered, announcing that they would march to the US Embassy to call on the Americans and the international community to urge the Liberian government to reopen Voice FM.
Costa told this newspaper that the gathering had not been called by him personally, as he was just two days back in the country.
“Look, I didn’t call them, but see the number that has turned out. I am personally going to mobilize a bigger and a larger peaceful protest in the coming days. I will get on pickup trucks and move from community to community to ask all of our supporters to come out and peacefully protest,” he disclosed to the Daily Observer.
Also speaking to journalists, Costa’s co-host of the ‘Henry Costa Morning Show,’ Woods A. Nyanton, who is based in Liberia while Costa is in the US, disclosed that they have been informed that the court will begin hearings into their closure sometime this week.
“We have gathered to send a message out there to everyone that we are not going to agree to live under a gag order. We want freedom of speech to be respected. Voice FM, the ‘Voice of the Voiceless,’ has stood with the people. Many people say we put out invectives, but I think words are better than bullets. We don’t support anything subversive,” Nyanton, who is most known by his first name – Woods, said.
He stated that the court erred in ordering the closure of Voice FM on July 4, as he and Costa, who usually linked up with him from Delaware, USA, were on air and broadcasting on the 102.7 frequency.
According to him, the court sent them the wrong documents but they, however, “adhered to the law ordering the closure.”
“According to the writ that was served on us, the Sheriff, was commanded to enjoin, prohibit and restrain the respondents – us – from broadcasting via frequency 102.7.”
He disclosed that five hours after they had been shut down, “operatives came along with one of the Sheriffs, and those operatives raided all of our broadcasting equipment and took them away.”
He boasted that Voice FM will not die and they have confidence in the Civil Law Court, where the matter is scheduled to be heard.
For most people associated with the radio station, its closure by the court was politically manipulated because of how Costa and his co-host, Woods, present the ‘Henry Costa Morning Show,’ which has been on the air for the last four years.
Costa, along with Woods and their supporters, marched to the US Embassy to request the Americans to urge the Liberian government to reopen the station.
At the US Embassy, Mr. Paul Hinshaw, Public Affairs Officer, along with a few embassy staff, came out to receive the Voice FM petition, which was presented under the auspices of a group known as ‘Citizens in Solidarity with Voice FM 102.7’ (CISOVOICE).
The petition indicated that “CISOVOICE considers the unjustifiable closure of Voice FM by government as an attack on the Liberian media and the Liberian people and we will continue to protest this undemocratic precedence. We are standing with Voice FM today because we believe
Henry Costa, along with his team of professionals, has done nothing wrong to deserve such a cruel treatment. They have committed no crime for speaking the truth without fear or favor! We will stand up tomorrow if any other media entity is threatened in such manner. This show [Henry
Costa Morning Show] has been an illuminating source of education and information.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Hinshaw promised the Voice FM family that he would take their request to US Ambassador Christine Elder, who recently arrived in the country to assume her diplomatic tour of duty.
A day after Voice FM was shutdown, the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), at the regular Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) press briefing, disclosed that it had sought the court order to close down Voice FM for its alleged “failure to obtain operating permit over the last couple of years.”
The Acting LTA chairperson, Henry W. Benson, had stated: “Voice FM has been operating as a commercial station without a permit for a couple of years now. We tried 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 the 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.
Henry Costa Morning Show Four Years on Air
During those four years of the ‘Henry Costa Morning Show,’ including the years before parting company with his former employer, Hott FM, Costa won himself many admirers, especially among Liberians who profess change and want the economy to be placed in the hands of ordinary
Liberians. Through his show, he is seen as a “friend and one who stands for justice” by some Liberians, who respect and admire his provocative on-air style.
However, this has also earned him many critics in high places in government, and his station’s frequency have many times been ‘jammed’ while the show was being aired.