The case involving Voice FM, represented by its owner Henry Costa and the Government of Liberia through the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has gotten underway at the Temple of Justice with the government winning the first motion filed by defense lawyers requesting the Civil Law Court to order the reopening of the station by vacating preliminary injunction filed by state lawyers.
Civil Law Court presiding Judge Yusif D. Kaba denied the motion to vacate the preliminary Injunction filed by the Management of Voice FM through its Counsel on ground that LTA has the right by law to regulate every spectrum including radio. “The Court hereby denies and dismisses the motion to vacate preliminary Injunction and by that hereby make permanent the injunction issued pending the outcome of the petition for Declaratory Judgment, so order,” Judge Kaba noted. Handing down the ruling over the weekend, Judge Kaba noted further that after a careful perusal of the petition for the preliminary Injunction and the motion to vacate has shown that the parties are in agreement that the LTA is the regulatory agency under the Telecommunications Act. He said the both parties are also in agreement with the LTA act that requires users of radio communication equipment and of radio frequencies to obtain license and authorization from the regulatory agency, saying that, “there is no dispute that the regulatory agency did not issue any license in the name of Voice FM for the operation of communication equipment or for the use of frequency 102.7”. Accordingly, the Civil Law Court Judge indicated further that both parties did not also have a dispute that the regulatory agency did not give its consent for the transfer of this frequency from the Liberia Web Radio to Voice FM. The Judge furthered that the use of the frequency by Voice FM is the subject behind the main declaratory judgment petition that has been filed by the LTA. “25.1 of the LTA act states that, no person shall operate radio communication equipment or make any use of radio frequencies except in accordance with a radio spectrum license or radio frequency authorization issued by the LTA”. On Monday, July 4, 2016, the Acting LTA Commissioner, Mr. Henry Benson stated at a press conference at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill that Voice FM has operated as a commercial station without a permit for a couple of years. Notwithstanding, the LTA accused the management of Voice FM of “persistent and blatant violation” of the Telecommunication Act in a six counts petition earlier filed to the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, thereby requesting the court to declare and affirm its rights and authority to shutdown any station that operates without license. The six counts petition was filed against Voice FM for preliminary Injunction along with Declaratory Judgment to prohibit, restrain and enjoin the station from further engaging in broadcasting on the frequency 102.7 and to order the sheriff to also take possession and custody of any equipment used by them for the purpose of broadcasting, pending the final determination of the petition for declaratory judgment. Civil Law Court, the government of Liberia said the broadcast of the station has caused an immeasurable and unquantified amount of injury to the state and did not have any record to authenticate their existence. Montserrado County Attorney, J. Daku Mulbah said, “the injury of voice FM broadcast to the state is immeasurable to be quantified and has destroy the fabric of our country masquerading as a giant, and if the court will aid them by granting them the right it means it will enable them to violate the law”. He said “Voice FM was never authorized or approved by LTA, it was restrained because of its violation and he who claims equity must do so with clear hands”, Attorney Mulbah added. Additionally, Cllr. Mulbah noted during the argument that the case was before the court to tell whether or not the movant was ever issued the frequency 102.7 by the LTA and whether or not the act of movant in operating a radio station with said frequency met the approval of the LTA. Mentioning further that the law of the country is clear to the effect and spell out in their petition at the preliminary injection and noted that according to the LTA act, “No person shall operate radio communication equipment or make any use of radio frequencies except in accordance with a radio spectrum license or radio frequency authorization issued by the LTA”. The government through its prosecutorial arm, has prayed to the Civil Law Court to dismiss the motion of the movant and its injunction be made permanent as the defendant does not legal institution depending on the finding However, Voice FM represented by the Gongloe and associates and others have called on judge Yusuf Kaba to lift the preliminary injection filed by the government that has stop them from operating so as to allow them operate in the period until the matter is adjudicated, adding that for every offense under the law there is a remedy. Cllr. Gongloe stated that a valid bond has been filed which was not resisted by the State and as such the writ of injunction should be lifted while legal proceedings continues for the writ declaratory judgment as the petitioner filed in two separate writs which include: a writ of Declaratory Judgment and a writ of injunction. “Since the valid bond was filed to the state, they should have responded to it in three days by law and has been ignored which means the state has accepted the bond and such there is no need to have the station closed,” he said. According to him, Voice FM is a recognized institution furthering that they went at the Ministry of Information and was sent to pay the amount of US$500 into government revenue and received a flag receipt through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) in February of 2015. Meanwhile, Judge Kaba has handed down his verdict on the vacation of the preliminary injunction against the management of Voice FM pending hearings into the writ of declaratory Judgment.