MONROVIA, Montserrado – Eugene Fahngon, Liberia’s deputy information minister for public affairs, says that the media review process, which saw the licenses of new media outlets suspended, may take up to a year to be completed.
On June 18, the government announced an immediate suspension of all new operating licenses and authorizations it had issued to media operators between January 1 and June 18 this year.
The government said it was reviewing the regulatory regime of media operating licenses and authorization due to “technical and administrative irregularities,” including duplications of frequencies to radio and television operators, and incorrect designations and submissions.
Organizations such as the Press Union of Liberia had criticized the government’s action as “arbitrary and targeted.” The union called on the government to speed up the process.
One media institution affected by the action was Punch FM, a recently launched but not yet operational media outlet. Its chief executive, Patrick Honnah, had told The Bush Chicken that he felt targeted by the government’s action. Honnah’s Punch FM and Punch TV had been heavily advertised on billboards around Monrovia and on the Facebook pages of supporters.
In addition to Honnah’s media institutions, Spoon Communications, 231 Group of Companies, and Magic FM/Emmanuel TV also had their licenses suspended. Talk show host Henry Costa’s request for a radio station named Roots FM was also included among suspended media outlets.
During an interview with The Bush Chicken on Tuesday, August 14, Fahngon said the review process is not meant to target any specific media institution.
“Regrettable, not a lot of media institutions seem to be cooperating,” he emphasized.
The deputy information minister said many of the media institutions have not been able to live up to the guidelines, ranging from operating at the proper frequency, ensuring they are properly staffed, having a soundproofed studio, and being equipped with two bathrooms, among others.
“Less than five percent of media institutions have so far come forward,” he said.
When quizzed as to the penalties for media institutions that will be violation of the government media review process guidelines, Fahngon said the government had not yet decided upon actions to take against violators.
“The government will do everything to work alongside media institutions and if we get to the point when things are not helping or working, we will make such decision,” he said.
Fahngon promised to make available the names of media institutions that have complied with the government’s media review guidelines.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah