The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) says it is appalled by the closure of Radio LIB24. This is an unacceptably intimidating tactic meant to muzzle the Liberian media into silence, and must be condemned by all sectors of Liberia, a PUL press release said yesterday. “Lest we forget, the closure of LIB 24 is the second action against a media house within a few weeks, and has presented media space as an endangered environment. In the long term, this will lead to a censored and frightened media,” PUL statement said.
Given LIB 24’s known partisan bent, “by this action, the government has presented itself as an undemocratic and intolerant regime, pursuing schemes that are inimical to the principles of free expression and respect for divergent ideologies,” PUL President K. Abdullai Kamara said. Furthermore, the government’s claim of pursuing tax and regulatory delinquency in this latest clamp down is at most double standard, when the same government is the largest player in the economy and the biggest debtor of media services.
“By continuously foot dragging in the payment of media bills, the Liberian government has basically strangulated the media, effectively leaving the press largely unable to pay taxes,” Kamara maintained. In this case, this government has lost the moral ground to demand compliance from the same media, which is unable to act due to government’s inaction.
This scenario therefore places the government under a moral and legal obligation to evaluate its relations with the media more in terms of resuscitating the difficult economic and operating environment in which media is struggling to survive. On the other hand, and in line with strengthening democracy and stability in Liberia, the government must be seen enabling divergent views as opposed to exacting punishments, especially for known dissenters.
If the government is truly sincere about ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, the Press Union is available to join this conversation. However, it must be clear that the Press Union of Liberia cannot be a part of any arrangement that is designed to limit the number and diversity of voices in the Liberian society. “We therefore call upon the Government of Liberia to reopen the affected media houses and introduce measures that will ensure individual and institutional respect for and compliance with regulations,” the statement said.