Liberia: Was Mary Williams Kicked Off the Air? Critical Talk Show Host Gone Silent
Monrovia – Mary Williams’ fiery voice on the Hott FM morning Show has been muted from the airwaves for a little over a week now, with speculations pointing to pressure on the station’s management from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.
Report by Rodney Sieh, [email protected]
Mr. Bernard “DJ Blue” Benson, when contacted this week would only cite technical issues but failed to offer specifics when queried about the speculations surrounding Williams’ omission from the airwaves. “Absolutely Not, just other issues I need to settle with the station,” Mr. Benson said via text message.
Williams herself has been quiet on her sudden silence from the airwaves, with many of her listeners expressing concerns over the show’s disappearance.
Pressed Wednesday, Williams continue to refer to Mr. Benson, stating that she is unsure what the issues were. “I received a call over the weekend from “DJ Blue” to say that he wanted to see me and that we needed to talk. I called him that night and he said that there are things about the show that he would like to discuss and stressed that I don’t go on air until we had a discussion. I told him that if we talk prior to me going on the air then there was no need of me staying on. I insisted that we talk after we do the show but haven’t heard from him since.”
HottFM had been of the air for about a week but returned this week without the popular morning talk show.
Asked whether she thought the break in transmission was a deliberate attempt to find an excuse to kick her off the air, Williams was doubtful. “I can’t speak to that, I don’t want to say something I am not aware of. I have managed stations before and they do go off so I can speak to that but to be quite frank, he (“DJ Blue”) had told me to calm down on Gbekubeh (President Weah). I did not like it at all, I don’t think that’s the way to do it. If there’s something you don’t like or have issues with come out and say it. I personally just thought that the best way was to allow him to tell other people what it is that he has issues with but I personally just do not see what it is. We offer listeners a chance to express themselves. The issues discussed are not manufactured, they reflect the realities on the ground and what people are feeling.”
Asked what’s next for her, the fiery talk show host told FrontPageAfrica that she is currently weighing a number of requests to host an afternoon show from a number of stations but said she does not want to be boxed into a similar situation.
This is not the first time that Mr. Benson has had issues surrounding his morning show format.
In 2012, the highly-rated Henry Costa Morning Show which was critical of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration was suddenly kicked off the air leaving Costa and his then sidekick, Menipakei Dumoe in the cold.
Costa has since moved on with his Roots FM on 102.7 and has of late been a thorn in the side of the current administration.
The Weah-led government has come under fire in recent weeks for its clampdown on the Press with the latest Freedom House Report suggesting that the press is only partly free. This week also saw the dawn of the Independent Inquirer said to be backed by the government appear on the newsstand. The paper, mostly comprise staff of veteran journalist Philip Wesseh’s Inquirer newspaper appeared with a similar look to the Inquirer.
The administration has also worked behind the scenes to keep another veteran talk show host Patrick Honnah off the air. Honnah, successfully registered his Punch FM last year, only for the government to issue an order preventing the registration of new radio stations. Several new stations have since been registered while Honnah’s Punch FM remains off the air.
For Williams, the mystery surrounding her show’s fate is compounded by Mr. Benson’s silence. “I don’t think he (“DJ Blue”) can tell me what it is himself but he needs to be bold enough and say it to my face what the problem actually is. I don’t’ know what else to say. It is a situation that I really cannot put a finger on.”