By Martin K. N. Kollie
Liberian Youth and Student Leader
With grave urgency and concern, we vehemently condemn President George M. Weah and his Government for violently attacking ROOTS FM 102.7 – a critical radio station owned and operated by popular and vocal talk-show host Henry P. Costa. The unprovoked action by this government to forcibly enter and illegally shut down Roots FM is not only autocratic and undemocratic but it reechoes ‘The Reign of Terror’ in Liberia.
The Republic is fast gravitating from Democracy to Dictatorship under ex-Soccer Star George M. Weah. The dark days are returning as our democracy goes on retrial. Those cherished values of press freedom and free speech are under attack by this intolerant, insensitive, and insolent regime. This morning, history witnessed another sad and repressive incident – a preplanned conspiracy to crackdown on voices of dissent. The vandalization and looting of Roots FM have rendered this government anti-press, anti-peace, and anti-people.
The 2007 Table Mountain Declaration, The 2019 Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom and The 2010 Freedom of Information Act are being severely bruised by this unpatriotic regime that is characterized by State plunder and governance failure. Like we will condemn GOL for closing any media outlet, we are condemning it for unleashing such a vicious attack on Roots FM. The intimidation of independent and critical media outlets in Liberia is inconceivable.
Let us recall a few threats from senior officials of this government: President George M. Weah described critics and vocal media outlets as ‘Enemies of the State in June 2018 – Minister of Finance Samuel Tweah threatened to ‘weaponize against the media’ in December 2018 – Minister of Information Lenn Eugene Nagbe described the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) as ‘Useless’ in December 2018 – Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill described The Media as a ‘Criminal Enterprise’ in April 2019.
Let it be made clear that any government that suppresses its people from freely speaking out and knowing The Truth is short-lived. The cornerstone of every democratic nation is built upon press freedom and free speech. When these basic rights are brutally censored and castrated by an autocratic hegemony, THE PEOPLE will be compelled to rise up and demand freedom from oppression and their oppressors. The Weah-led government MUST desist from always instigating public uproars and chaos.
We call on ECOWAS, AU, UN, EU, and US Embassy near Monrovia to join patriotic Liberians in safeguarding and preserving those democratic gains and values, including The Rule of Law, as these values are fast eroding and being slaughtered under Mr. Weah. Furthermore, we condemn and denounce PUL’s recommendation for GOL through MICAT to shut down critical radio stations, including Roots FM. In our opinion, there are other remedial pathways that PUL could use to ensure full adherence to its canon (regulations and ethics).
Closing a radio station is not and can never be The Solution or most appropriate remedy. How could PUL offer its own baby to hungry vultures? PUL could be indicted for conniving with GOL to muzzle the free press and free speech even though it should be unapologetically protecting these fundamental values especially safeguarding radio stations from repression.
Today, it is Roots FM. Tomorrow, it could be another media outlet or anyone of us. We will continue to struggle and stand up for press freedom and free speech. No media entity should be closed or muzzled simply because of its critical and independent stance. Such action is not only condemnable but contemptuous in the context of true democracy. It is risky to shut down a popular Voice of The People (Roots FM). The people will find other means which could endanger the existence of the Government.
All Power is inherent in The People. Therefore, we call on GOL to immediately reopen Roots FM and abort any further plan or design of muzzling the free and critical press in Liberia. It is time for solidarity forces and champions of press freedom to unite and stand up. Down with Dictatorship – Up with Democracy – Up with Press Freedom and Free Speech!
Martin K. N. Kollie, Youth and Student Activist