Amidst huge public and international outcry about the shut down action, the LTA continues to justify its action. At a recent Ministry of Information press briefing, Commissioner for Engineering and Technology Henry Benson said the station owes taxes to the Liberian government, thus their refusal has prompted the court closure.
What continues to baffle the minds of critical thinkers is why would government closure of delinquent radio stations target Voice FM while other similar delinquent stations remain open? Meanwhile, sources from the LTA source have informed us at Capitol Times that even Senator George Weah Kings FM and City FM owe government huge arrears in taxes but continue to operate freely.
It is also said that when the TLA tried to close down George Weah’s stations, the president intervened, saying the closure would send the wrong signal that government is targeting opposition media.
In the midst of government’s heavy handedness against Voice FM, Mr. Henry Costa, who just returned from the United States, said his Voice FM was illegally closed because he has been advocating for the rights of the Liberian people and exposing ills in Government. Costa continuously maintains that he has not refused to pay his taxes, but that the Ministry of Information has been stalling the process.
While some of us would never condone Costa’s brash and ungentlemanly approach to journalism, we will fight for his right to be heard.
We sincerely believe that this government, despite all the criticisms from the domestic front, leads 110% when it comes to press freedom. At this critical juncture when the government is wrapping up its tenure, it is incumbent that this particular legacy remains intact.
Moreover, the issue of arrears must be seen from two angles. While government is busy ensuring that media institutions pay their taxes, government too must pay its advertorial arrears to media institutions.
Finally, government tax collection process must be impartial, affecting all without fear or favor. Otherwise, the process will be seen as pure witch hunt to silence critical voices.