Liberia: Punch Given Green Light To Operate As The Government Risks Suit For Damages
Monrovia – The Supreme Court of Liberia has given green light to One Media Incorporated, Owner of Punch FM to operate, after being barred by the government since June 2018.
The Supreme Court mandate to allow the institution to operate was contained in a judgment on Monday, September 26.
In January of 2018, One Media Incorporated met all requirements under the laws of Liberia to operate as a media institution, with the Government of Liberia at the time issuing the entity broadcast license and permit.
But five months later, the Weah administration prevented the station from coming on air, citing a review of the country’s media sector as the basis for its action.
However, the Management of Punch FM took a legal stance against the government through a Petition for Declaratory Judgement.
Furthermore, in January 2020, Civil Law Court ‘A’ Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh restored the right of One Media Incorporated to operate a radio station, Punch FM 106.3 in the country, but the government, through the Ministry of Information Culture Affairs and Tourism, on the other hand, took an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Following a review process of court records, the Supreme Court in its judgment noted that whilst the Executive Law Rev. Code 13.31 grants the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs, and Tourism authority to regulate the Fourth Estate, however, in the instant case, the Ministry violated One Media Incorporated’s constitutional rights to due process when it suspended its license without conducting a hearing.
According to the Supreme Court, the continued closure of Punch FM premises without any justifiable reason violates the entity’s rights in many aspects.
Therefore, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, affirming the ruling of the Civil Law Court to restore the right of One Media Incorporated to operate a radio station, Punch FM 106.3 in Liberia, thus denying the government’s appeal.
The Supreme Court has mandated the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court to resume jurisdiction over the case and give effect to its judgment.
Hours following the Supreme Court’s Monday’s judgment, One Media Incorporated Chief Executive Officer, Journalist Patrick Honnah told FrontPageAfrica that the Supreme Court Judgement clearly shows a violation of freedom of speech by the George Weah administration.
Honnah termed it a “witch-hunt” for government to stop the operation of his institution when he has satisfied all requirements.
He assures the public that the institution will begin operation soon, as setup has already been done.
While Hannah sees the ruling as a victory for freedom of speech, he has equally threatened to take a lawsuit against the government for damages caused by his institution.
Honnah said he had invested a huge sum. of money for the operation of Punch FM, only to note that government has a plan to deny him for her own “selfish reasons.”
According to him, contracts signed with partners did not materialize as a result of being denied from operating for four years.
This, he said has caused him serious losses and as a result, he will drag the government to court for damages incurred.