Political Divide Leads to Suspension of Popular Talk Show in Bong County
Gbarnga, Bong County – Super Bongese, one of the three community radio stations in Gbarnga, on Tuesday suspended its popular “Sunrise’’ Talk Show, a week after its chief operating officer (CEO) endorsed the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC), headed by Senator George Weah.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
The show, which airs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday to Friday, will return after the run-off elections.
Senator George Weah will face the Unity Party headed by Vice President Joseph N. Boakai.
The runoff was scheduled for next Tuesday, Nov. 7, but is now on hold because the Supreme Court is reviewing allegations of irregularities filed by the Liberty Party.
James Dorbor Sao, the CEO who was defeated in his bid for Bong’s fifth District, endorsed the CDC last week.
The move angered some senior staff members who support the UP.
Dorbor, who contested on the ticket of the Coalition of Liberia’s Progress (CLP) in Bong’s fifth district, was among the 15 legislative aspirants who endorsed Weah.
Sao’s decision to join the CDC angered senior staffers of the station, primarily those who support UP.
Some staffers accused Sao of not consulting them before making his decision and as such they won’t follow him in supporting the CDC.
The “Sunrise’’ talk show was suspended to allow the station to remain independent and create the platform for everyone to express his views in exchange for a fee, Sao said.
The station charges US$100 for a political appearance on the station, Sao said.
He called on both the CDC and UP to take advantage of the amount to appear on the station.
“Once you meet the financial agreement with the radio station, you will be allowed to appear,’’ he said.
Sao denied rumours that he pressured junior staffers to support the CDC.
He also said he was disappointed that his personal decision is taking a toll on the station.
“I have mentored so many people in the profession but they have rewarded me with disrespect,” he said.
When he contested the representative seat, Sao said he opened the airwaves to his competitors.
“When I was contesting, I used Radio Gbarnga, another radio station in the county, more than my own station,” he said.
Tensions among the station’s staff also played out on social media.
Mohammed Melvin Kwenah, the station’s news director, posted on Facebook: “Watch out for a comprehensive analysis for your Judas attitude.’’
Later, Kwenah who did not mention Sao by name, apologized to all those he hurt directly or indirectly during the 2017 legislative race.
The post reads: “Let me publically apologize to all those I may have hurt directly or indirectly through my reportage during the just ended Representative Elections.
The experience is adding up on a daily basis.”
People who commented on the post called for peace between Sao and Kwenah.
Christopher Sankolo wrote: “What’s happening, Mohammed?”
‘’Let’s hope you reconcile with your boss, James Dorbor Sao.”
Corneh S. Dedah also wrote: “Thanks for the public apology, but let’s hope that all is well with you.”
Historically, the UP has always supported Super Bongese.
In 2008 when the station relocated from the Suakoko community to Gbarnga, District #2 Rep. Prince Moye was its biggest contributor.
Sao’s decision to join CDC is one of the major causes for the rift between him and junior staff of the station.
Samuel Kplaiwru, the station’s manager, on Saturday, refused to give the Unity Party airtime because the party had not paid for it.
Kplaiwru said the suspension of the “Sun Rise” talk show doesn’t me the station has shut broadcast.
The two parties can come and do business with us once they pay for an appearance, he said.
Listeners are divided over the situation.
William Siafa, a regular listener, said the decision to suspend the show is a step in the right direction.
“This decision is in the best interest of everyone in Bong County,” he said.
“Community radio station is not for one party,” Dolo said. “For us from the CDC, we saw the station like the UP station.”
Derrick Benson, another listener, disagrees with the suspension of the popular morning show that provided important information and dialogue in the community.
She said it was disappointing for the management of the station to use its political affiliation to suspend an informative program that was serving the community.
“We are in a very critical period and suspending program for your personal gains is unacceptable,” she said.
Victoria Peabody, 23, said it is disappointing to see journalists publicly take political sides.
She called on the station’s board and stakeholders in the community to intervene to ensure that the program is restored and the station remains a truly community radio station.
“Super Bongese is not anyone’s personal property,” she said.
Board Member Moses Manston described situations at the station as a sad day for an institution renowned for ethical broadcasting void of political interference.
He said the station prides itself on high ethical standards, a trait that enabled it to win the Press Union of Liberia award in 2013 as best community radio station.
Manston said the board would hold a senior management team meeting to find a common ground and discuss how to restore the Sunrise talk show.