MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Monrovia City Court has ruled against the government in the ongoing case against Roots FM, allowing Roots Holdings Incorporated, the radio station’s parent company, to sue the government on behalf of the station.
Popular radio station Roots FM was shut down on Thursday, October 10 after the Monrovia City Court issued a writ of search and seizure warrant to retrieve equipment at the station, including the station’s transformer.
The court issued the warrant on October 9 based on the government’s request that said Roots FM had violated the laws by inciting riot and violence, in addition to operating illegally by not being registered.
However, Roots FM’s parent company, Roots Holdings, is now suing the government to have its equipment returned. In return, the government asked the Monrovia City Court to not allow Roots Holdings to represent Roots FM since its original case was against Roots FM.
However, Magistrate Ernest Bana ruled in favor of allowing Roots Holdings to continue its case, allowing the full trial to begin.
The government had argued that Roots Holdings was a separate and distinct entity from Roots FM and should not be qualified to sue in the ongoing case.
The legal counsel for Roots Holdings, famed human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe, argued that the move by the state was in bad faith and merely intended to delay the hearing of the motion to return Roots FM’s property and suppress evidence before the court.
“The state wants to continuingly keep the broadcast items from Roots FM illegally and by that effect, keep the station closed perpetually,” Gongloe added.
Gongloe also argued during Monday’s trial that using the airwaves for speech can no longer be considered a criminal offense because of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom, which was passed into law at the beginning of this year.
In his ruling, Magistrate Bana denied the government’s argument and ordered the trial to begin. He said the Ministry of Justice’s reasoning “should not be a ground for denial.” He ruled that Roots Holdings had a standing to file its motion on behalf of Roots FM.
The trial is expected to continue on Tuesday.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah