Liberia: Massive Protest

Local radio station Roots FM

The George Manneh Weah led - regime has shut down local broadcaster Roots FM, using riot police to forcibly break into the facility despite massive protest by some Liberians that see the government's action as repressive and against free speech.

The government here is unhappy with Talk Show Host Henry Costa who is the main voice on Roots FM for being harsh in his discussions against officials. But a pro - government station that uses terrible language against oppositions remains operational.

The police's move to shut down Roots FM which is deemed in government circle as anti - Weah station comes over a week after Costa raised alarm here, alleging that police were refusing to release a kidnapped, raped and tortured victim Justina Taylor from a Catholic - run hospital to seek advanced medication in the U.S.Justina was released by the government following clashes between police and hundreds of protesters in Oldest Congo Town.

The latest move against Costa's station Roots FM came Thursday while the station's usual morning talk show was live, with heavy sounds being heard like a gate being broken.The scene was chaotic when loyalists of Mr. Costa and well armed riot police clashed outside Roots FM on Ashum Street, Monrovia.Some eyewitnesses narrated to this paper that sheriffs from the Monrovia City Court, along with heavily armed police officers went with a search warrant to shut down Roots FM. But others say it remains a question as to who received and signed for the writ before police began breaking into the facility.

The riot intensified as police fired tear gas in response to stone thrown by protesters, demanding an unconditional reopening of the station.One of the protesters says Roots FM is a source of information for the ordinary people, expressing surprise at the government's action.

But government supporters here say Costa's pronouncement on radio is allegedly inciting citizens against the administration of President Weah.The protest lasted for more than an hour and it turned bloody as one person got badly wounded on the head.

Victim Erison Kanweah, aged 32, says he had just returned from the Ministry of Gender for his birth certificate when the incident occurred.Meanwhile, Ms. Rita M. Bracewell, who runs the Hawa Catering Service on Ashmum Street says the riot caused damage to her business.

According to her, she lost US$400 plus LRD$10,000 LD as a result of the heavy riot that took place.

"I think we're heading wrongly as a people; we can't continue to risk our peace that we all fought for. Today I lost, who's going to pay?" she asked in apparent frustration.

In the search warrant issued by the City Court, the officers were commanded to search from 0600hrs to 1800hrs in the premises of the Management of Roots FM (102.7) located in Monrovia.

"The purpose of this request is for the discovery and seizure of transmitters, clipboard, and mixers, microphones, headphones, computers, stabilizers, cables antennas (one bay, four bay ), amplifiers, generators, among others, which are believed to be in these premises," the writ says.

"You are hereby commanded that upon the discovery of the items, to bring them before this honorable court in keeping with law and make your official returns endorsed at the back of this writ as to the form and manner of service hereto," the writ of search warrant states.

Following the closure of Roots FM, supporters of Costa began questioning the police as to why they only shut down Costa's station, even though they claim that regulators had allegedly requested the closure of three stations for violating the 2007 Telecommunication Act.

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