Gov’t Roars on Media Regulation
By John L. Momoh
The government of President George Manneh Weah has not threatened or targeted anyone, but is simply asking media houses or institutions in the country to regularize their status in accordance with law, professional ethics and procedures.
Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Mr. Eugene LaminFahngon made this remarks on Thursday in the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism during the regular Ministry of Information weekly press briefing.
According to Minister Fahngon who deputized for Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, every time that government tries to do something that is not in favor of the media, the effort is construed by some journalists as an attack or threat on the media.He added that it is shameful that while journalists, printing house owners, media publishers and entrepreneurs are not complying with the Information Ministry’s guidelines, marketers are complying with their obligation to pay their market dues for their tables every day.
Earlier the Deputy Minister used the occasion to re-echo that President Weah has commended the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) in their efforts to collect lawful revenue, and that government is about to begin the construction of over 5oo low-cost housing for rural dwellers in the country, to be done by Liberian contractors beginning with Fendall Community near Monrovia to be given out free of charge.
Continuing his usual house-keeping exercise, the Deputy Minister said that the Doe community to Clara town community Road project is on course and President Weah remains committed to complete 761 Kilometers of paved roads in 3 years, adding that zinc and roofing on a significant number of houses in the Gibralter community as promised.
He added that: “Government remains committed to upholding freedom of the press in the country and gave me the mandate not to arrest or detain any journalist. The media institutions are complaining, but we need to sit down and dialogue for to reach a compromise”.
Minister Fahngon then roared on the media by saying:, “our role is to clean-up the mess in the issuance of new media licenses and their review processes, we need to get sufficient confidence before sanctions on the non-compliance will be lifted. “
According to him, “we don’t want a situation whereby media institutions do not have guidelines and staff listings, a list of media outlets, their locations, frequency numbers assigned, or frequency signed for is re-assigned to another person. The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) President got it wrong”.
Explaining the Patrick Horner issue, he denied ever threatening the former LBS employee, noting that Horner signed for a frequency that was only to cover Paynesville city, but it turned out to be heard as far as Broad Street. “Many of the frequencies operating are not in our data base”.
He added: “In 2017 only one TV station was in compliance with 9 non-compliant and in 2018 only 2 TV stations in compliance. In 2017 there were 25 registered Radio stations with only 13 in compliance; in 2015 out of 25 religious stations only 2 of them in compliance, In 2017 out of 60-70 community radio stations only 14 in compliance, but in 2028 none of them in compliance; KOTV about 10 of them only 4 in compliance.
Expanding the list, Deputy Minister Fahngon noted that out of 70 printing houses 52 of them are non-compliant in 2017. He observed that the frequency allotted to electronic media is one year free and subject to renewal every year by law, adding that his ministry will not sit supine while government is deprived in the name of press freedom.
“Radio stations are to pay a fee of USD$500 yearly, TV stations USD$1,000 yearly while cable TV stations are obliged to pay an annual subscription fee of USD$1,500. It is also mandatory that all media houses submit a complete list of their staff, including the career profiles of editors and managing editors,” Fahngon said.
He reiterated that government’s exercise is not targeting or silencing anyone, but why is it that out of 55 newspapers, only few are complying? Adding that what we should give to John should remain with John, no illegal transfer of station. Where are the other radio and television stations, community radios and cable TV stations?” he asked.
The Liberian people mandated President Weah to change things, that mandate is in full effect, so in case of media regulatory violation, a fee of USD500 or cancellation of operating licenses stands,” Fahngon said. By John L. Momoh