House of Representatives to Probe Liberia Telecommunications Authority for Shutting Down Internet
Monrovia – The Plenary of the House of Representatives has designated its committee on Post and Telecommunications to review a communication citing the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) to give reasons for shutting down the internet on June 7.
Early on June 7, before the commencement of the “Save the State Protest,” internet users began experiencing disruption in their connection that stopped them from accessing various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, among others throughout the day.
The action sparked ‘huge’ debate as supporters of the protest termed it as an attempt by the government to suppress the anti-government demonstration and clamp down on free speech; while supporters of the government welcomed the move they believe was a ‘smart’ security measure aimed at curtailing the dissemination of hate messages and false information.
In his communication to plenary, Rep. Thomas A. Goshua (Grand Bassa District #5) noted that without prior notice to the citizens, the government, through the LTA, took a deliberate decision to shut down the internet; thus providing inconvenience for the people and keeping families and friends at a serious disconnect.
“The use of internet is one of the major revenue generating sources upon which the government relies to support its social programs to meet the needs of the people – and if it is shut down for a whole day, it has a crippling economic effect on our economy with an already low growth rate of 0.4 percent; a condition that is appalling.”
He craved the “indulgence of Plenary to invite the management of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority to explain the rationale of the decision taken, and what will be done to compensate for the loss in revenue where macroeconomic stability has proved elusive, according to the IMF Country Team’s report.”
Meanwhile, following the reading of the communication, Rep. Jimmy Smith (Montserrado County District #2) filed in a motion urging plenary to designate its committee on Post and Telecommunications to review the document and report within one week and the motion was unanimously voted upon by plenary.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Ben Fofana (Margibi County District #4), called for the inclusion of the internet service providers including Lonestar – MTN, Orange and the government –owned Libtelco.
But his amendment was rejected by the movant, Rep. Smith on grounds that the LTA which is the regulatory body should firstly be questioned.