Liberia: Supreme Court Orders Resumption of Roots FM’s Petition to Have Case Dismissed

The FM station was closed down by the government on allegations that it was operating without valid license and was inciting violence in the public

MONROVIA – Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie has ordered Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice continue hearing the “motion for dismissal” filed by Roots FM.

The Government had argued that the then General Manager, Fidel Saydee, was not authorized by FM station’s board to file the motion before the court. The government then prayed the court to urge Roots FM to present minutes from the board showing evidence that Mr. Saydee was mandated by them them.

Magistrate Ernest Bana heard and dismissed the Government’s request to have the motion dismissed and ordered that the motion to return property and suppress evidence be heard.  Hearing was heard on the matter and the ruling was reserved.

While the ruling on the motion to return property and suppress evidence was pending, the government took the Magistrate up on a petition for summary proceedings before Criminal Court ‘A’. The Government sought a reversal of Magistrate Bana’s ruling which denied its request for dismissal of the Roots FM’s motion because of alleged lack of standing of Roots FM General Manager to file a motion without a board resolution. They also requested the Magistrate to recuse himself from the case.

Criminal Court ‘A’ judge, Roosevelt willie cited the parties to a conference on November 14, 2019, but before the conference Magistrate Bana had been transferred from the Monrovia City Court.

In Judge Willie’s ruling into the motion for summary proceeding, he ruled that though Magistrate Bana was a nominal party in the summary proceeding action, his presence was required; that magistrate Bana having been removed from the Monrovia City Court, the parties could go back to the Monrovia City Court to argue the motion to dismiss before the newly assigned magistrate.

But before the Justice in Chamber, Solicitor General Syrennius Cephas conceded that Judge Willie should have passed on the ruling made by Magistrate Bana on the issue of standing raised by the government for summary proceeding and that Magistrate Bana did not have to be present.

This means Root FM Station Manager has legal standing to request the return of  items seized by the Government. The Government earlier held that the Roots FM Station Manager didn’t have legal standing. The Justice in Chambers ruled against the Government.

The FM station was known for being very provocative of the government was ordered closed in October last year 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 then mentioned that Roots FM had violated the laws of Liberia by inciting riot and violence.

Other equipment seized based on the court request were a mixer, microphones, headphones, computers, stabilizers, and cables antennas. The court instructed the sheriff to bring all the items to the court.

The court action was based on a six-count request from the Ministry of Justice for a search, seizure, and an arrest warrant for the management of Roots FM. According to Justice Ministry’s petition, those operating the station were operating illegally and violating Section 15 of the Telecommunications Act for operating without being fully licensed by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority. Additionally, the Justice Ministry said Roots FM had not properly exercised its freedom of speech and had posed a threat to the peace and security of the country.