MONROVIA, Montserrado – Eugene Fahngon, Liberia’s deputy information minister for public affairs, says the government has suspended the licenses of eight new media institutions.
On June 18, the government announced an immediate suspension of all new operating licenses and authorizations it had issued to media operators between January 1 and June 18 this year.
The government said it was reviewing the regulatory regime of media operating licenses and authorization due to “technical and administrative irregularities,” including duplications of frequencies to radio and television operators, and incorrect designations and submissions.
When the press release was issued, the government did not name institutions that would be affected. It said the review process, which kicks off this Wednesday, would not affect media entities that were in existence prior to January 2018.
Following days of mounting pressure from the media and the public to disclose the name of affected institutions, Fahngon, in an exclusive interview with The Bush Chicken on Wednesday, June 20, said the government has suspended eight new media institutions.
He named some of the affected institutions as Spoon Communications, Punch FM, 231 Group of Companies, and Magic FM/Emmanuel TV. Fahngon also said talk show host Henry Costa’s request for a radio station was suspended.
Fahngon declined to name the remaining three institutions but he said speculations that the government made the decision to target Patrick Honnah, owner of Punch FM, is “baseless, unfounded, untrue, and speaks to the limitation of certain people.”
“I do not think he has what it takes to be a target that government officials should be afraid of,” Fahngon said.
The deputy information minister noted that this exercise reviewed that 27 media institutions have not been in compliance with the requirements for operating for the past three years.
Before any media institution begins operation in the country, it must present to the Ministry of Information, a complete set of documents proving that it is a legal business entity. This includes the articles of incorporation, business registration, a complete list of essential staff, career profile of managing editor and editor in chief, the exact location of propose media facility, presentation of revenue tax receipt and license for frequency allocation from the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, Fahngon said.
“Only 25 radio stations are registered in the ministry’s database,” he said.
In 2017, Fahngon said of the 75 newspapers operating in the country, only 14 complied with requirements. In 2018, Fahngon said this number of newspapers in compliance with government regulations dropped from 14 to 5.
He further said that the exercise will go on and “media institutions, whether new or old, that do not meet the guidelines for issuing media permit will be dealt with.”
The annual registration fee for newspapers is US$200, US$200 for community radio stations, US$350 for religious radio stations, US$500 for commercial radio stations, US$1,000 for television stations, US$1,500 for cable television.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah