Roots FM Resumes Regular Broadcast after Rumor of Being Shut Down by Gov’t

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Roots FM, which hosts the Costa Show, resumed regular broadcast Tuesday, after it was being rumored that the government had shut down the station.

The station was abruptly shut down on Thursday, October 3 while conducting a live broadcast of a protest at the entrance of the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Congo Town, where many had gathered on the alleged orders of talk show host, Henry Costa.

The protesters set up roadblocks, using planks, stones, and palm branches. They were demanding to take delivery of Jestina Taylor, a patient who had been discharged by the hospital’s administration and was planning to travel to the U.S. to seek further medical treatment.

Costa alleged that government operatives had gone to the health facility to arrest Taylor and prevent her from honoring her visa interview at the U.S. Embassy after she was discharged by the hospital’s administration.

Taylor was first hospitalized after reports that she was discovered unconscious in an unfinished building along the beach after going missing for days. Before going missing, Taylor, a former head of President George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change women’s wing, had made allegations against the party and some officials, including Monrovia’s Mayor Jefferson Koijee of training armed men in a neighboring country and engaging in mercenary activities.

She told the Liberia National Police after regaining consciousness that she was kidnapped by unknown men after she made the revelation, and was drugged, beaten, and ganged raped.

The deputy information minister for public affairs, Eugene Fahngon, clarified that the government was providing security for Taylor.

Fahngon also said the government would hold talk show host Henry Costa responsible for the protest and the resulting damage. He said the government has a recording of the talk show host inciting the public to obstruct justice.

He accused protesters of destroying sidewalks structures, including billboards, flower pots, describing their actions as criminal.

“In the next couple of days, the ministry will move where appropriate and use the laws available to our advantage [to ensure] our sidewalks, billboards, flowerpots and other things damaged by people sent by the talk show host are accounted for,” he said.

A visit to the station on Friday saw its door locked. But Costa wrote on his Facebook page that the government did shut down his station, promising to resume broadcast on Monday, October 7.

Roots FM was seen locked during a visit to the station by The Bush Chicken; photo by Zeze Ballah

His statement was supported by the station’s manager, Fidel Saydee, who told The Bush Chicken that the management shut down the station because it could not guarantee the safety and security of staff, as there were several threats against the station by CDC supporters.

“We needed to take precaution,” Saydee said via mobile phone.

Screenshot of a Facebook comment from a poster believed to be a CDC supporter

The Roots FM manager denied that the station incited the public against legal authorities, but noted that there was a need for Liberians to gather at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital and ensure Taylor got a free passage to honor her visa interview.

He maintained that the station had not received any communication or court warrant or a court order for a closure of the station, as it was being rumored.

While announcing the resumption of the Costa Show Tuesday, Costa insisted that they made no deals with the government to resume broadcast.

The Press Union of Liberia had recently declared that Roots FM and Freedom FM were partaking in abusive broadcast, which it said was destructive against the security of the state.

According to the union, broadcast content produced by the two radio stations are teaching younger Liberian generation to be untamed.

“The radios are often used to insult, and spread propaganda about rivals through talk shows which provides careless commentaries backed by rented serial or regular callers at the disadvantage of the public right to know and as well good,” the Press Union said in a statement.

The union called on the government to take immediate action against the two broadcasters, in keeping with the standards and procedures provided under the laws of the country, to serve as a deterrent to safeguard the future of the Liberian media- and protect the generations unborn.

The union further noted that it would no longer advocate for the protection of the two “reckless” broadcasters whose conduct it says are against every principle of good journalism.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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