Liberia: Talk Show Host Henry Costa Threatens Death on the Next Attack on His Radio Station
Monrovia – Lamenting what he calls the deteriorating state of lawlessness in Liberia in the wake of the latest attack on his Roots FM 102.7 radio station Monday, Talk Show Host Henry Costa says he is prepared to hire people who have knowledge and expertise in using guns in a bid to curb repeated attacks on his facility. “The next time you come
Report by Rodney D. Sieh,
Mr. Costa’s vent came just hours after he was dealt yet another blow to his highly-rated early morning talk show when the station’s office was burglarized for the second time in days, this time, attackers took away the transmitters along with other equipment.
2nd Attack in Days
This is the second time in many days that the station has fallen prey to an attack.
On Thursday January 31st, unknown armed men stormed the station and cut transmitter cables.
Mr. Costa told FrontPageAfrica that technicians usually visited the facility from to time to time to carry out maintenance work on the transmitter. “They opened the gate and let them in; they came in and immediately pulled out their guns – the three of them, they pulled out their guns on the two watchmen who were unarmed and they began asking them ‘Where is Costa’s broadcast equipment?’.
The vocal Costa has been a thorn in the side of the George Weah-led government with his uncompromising stance on corruption and revelation of damaging documents on a number of shady contracts. Most recently, the talk show host published and discussed leaked Articles of Incorporation showing that the government had given the ground handling operations of the new terminal at the Roberts International Airport to Jordanians and granted Bulgarians contract for the port of Buchanan. Jordanians is a regarded as one of the global havens for terrorists.
Listeners to show which runs from 7:30-10am Monday to Wednesday were shocked to learn from Mr. Costa’s sidekick, Fidel Saydee, that armed men had attacked the station in less than two weeks. “Sad Times: They finally succeeded in bursting the gate open and walking away with our transmitters (500 and 1000 watts respectively). Why all these attacks on Roots FM?”
Costa ‘Very Disturbed’
Mr. Costa, who is currently studying in the United States of America, said he learned of the incident when he woke up Monday morning and was greeted to hundreds of whazzap and Facebook inbox messages inquiring what was going on with his station.
Said Mr. Costa: “I am very disturbed; in fact, disturbed would be an understatement. What I feel is worse than that. I woke up this morning only to hear that our radio station was attacked again – for the second time, in less than two weeks. I don’t know what to say – how mindboggling it is; the same people I guess would stage an attack for the second time in days – just when they did another one a few days ago- why would people do that. This time, the attackers succeeded in taking all of our broadcast equipment away. I saw the pictures on Facebook – that’s how I learned of attack on my own radio station. And I told you people during the elections that we were headed for a dictatorship where they would try to muzzle us and stop us from speaking. Some of you just thought I hated the CDC. I don’t hate anybody. This is exactly what we have, we have a dictatorship on our hands – they will do the best they can to suppress those who criticize them, those who tell them the truth.
The radio personality said as a result of the repeated attacks, he has no alternative but to defend himself and his station. “The very next time anybody come to my station you will not leave from there alive. Come there again. I will put the equipment back; we will get back on the radio but come there again. Since we now live in a lawless country where the state cannot protect you, I am going to put single barrels there and come and disturb me again, people will be killed.”
Mr. Costa added: “I’m going to buy some single barrels and arm the place with people to protect my station. Their job would be to come there at night and protect our equipment. They will be there all night with single barrels. You come there, we will kill you.”
Mr. Costa said just as the last incident, armed attacks returned with guns and took the station’s equipment away. “This should concern every one of us – whether you are a supporter of Henry Costa or not, what happened to our radio station is wrong and it is scary. And if you think this is a Costa problem, you’re mistaken.”
Recipe for Bad Sore; ‘Bad Medicine’
Mr. Costa suggested that he is being targeted because of his criticisms of the government and speaking truth to power. “The reason why they are attacking me now is because they are afraid of me the most. This is an act of cowardice on their part. You’re simply scared of me. You don’t have the capability to intellectually engage me and counter what I say; so, you result to brutal means to disable and incapacitate me from what I do.”
He said the attack is bad for the Weah-led government’s image on the international scene. “This is how governments come down; this is how governments don’t last in power. Dictatorships, you start showing your ugly head so soon, bring people down because you are afraid of them. I’m buying single barrels and I will put them there. In the night, those gunmen will come. Come back and say you are coming to take my equipment…bad sore deserves bad medicine. I’m putting single barrels there, single barrels. Come back, come try to destroy my place again… if this is the way you want it, this is how we will do it. Come there to attack my station again, we will attack your people.”
Despite the attack, Mr. Costa says he is not deterred but acknowledged that he is broken by the attack.
“They’ve succeeded in dampening my spirit because we have to start from scratch, raising money to get new equipment – regardless of how I sound on the radio, I am human. When people threaten you, when people keep coming after you – two attacks in two weeks? We were just about to install a CCTV camera, hoping that it might discourage them. These boys jumped over the fence, they enter the yard and put the watchmen at gunpoint; they brought hammers with them to bust the door open; they chiseled the iron door, they broke the wall to go inside. They took everything.”
In his vent, Mr. Costa said as much as he was critical of the previous government of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, he never experienced what he is experiencing now. “You know when Ellen was in power, I challenged her government – never once was I attacked in this way. They shut us down using the law which was a travesty of justice; but they never got to a point where they will send gunmen, armed me to take our equipment away.”
He accused ruling party stalwarts Acarous Gray and chair Mulbah Morlue of masterminding the latest attack on his station. “The people you (CDCians) put in power, they are the ones who empower people to do these things. – Mulbah Morlue, Acarous Gray, you name them – they are the ones. And even the president. When the president refers to people as enemies of the state, what do you think happens, they incite the people to attack us. And they think they are going to stop us, I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to put that station back on, we’re going to get equipment, if we’re going to rent equipment while we are raising money to buy equipment, we will do that, we will do that but nobody is going to stop us from broadcasting.”
Although unsure about the motives anyone would have for trying shut him up, Mr. Costa said pondered: “What did I do to deserve this? Why do they keep attacking me? What have I done? I’ve never called for the violent overthrow of the government. All I do is expose the facts and the wrongs they do. That is all that I do. Why are you not able to counter me? Why can’t you find another way to counter me? If I say something that is not true, why can’t you just provide the facts to the contrary and put me to shame. In fact, sue me if I’m lying on you. Why can’t you do that?”
Costa: Government ‘Celebrating’ Over Attack
Mr. Costa said all that he has done in recent weeks, as he has always done is raise issues affecting the country. “We talked about the fish deal, you brought people to town, you want to bring three hundred Senegalese boats to town. You go to Senegal, you don’t even tell your own people – we expose that and you get angry; you go and sign a deal with some criminals from Sierra Leone to bring a tracking system to the country for all shipments coming in and leaving the country that will not benefit the people, we talk about that you get angry.”
Mr. Costa said those behind the attacks on him and his station are mistaken to believe that it will deter his advocacy. “You’re mistaken. If you CDCians are because we’ve been attacked, you’re mistaken. I’m Henry Costa, my voice will remain on that radio in Liberia for as long as I want but nobody is going to scare me off the radio, I just want you to know that.”
He slammed the Weah-led government for not addressing the wave of attacks on his station, the latest which could keep him off the air for some time. “The government will say nothing about this, in fact, they are celebrating. They have said nothing and will say nothing. They said nothing after the last attack and they will say nothing after this one. They are celebrating, they are happy about this. Their masters are happy that this has happened to me but they are not going to succeed because I will get back on the air.
Critics See Act of Cowardice
The latest attack on Mr. Costa and his station is drawing criticisms from far and wide.
Political commentator Mr. Boakai Jalieba said that attack is not only cowardice but also an attack on free speech. “Someone went out there and vandalized Costa’s Roots FM studio! Took every equipment and cut the cables. Premeditated and politically laden!!!! I predict they’ll soon start the bodily attacks.”
Mr. Kla Williams, of the opposition Liberty Party said the attack on the station is deeply disturbing.
“This is the second time in less than a week that the station has reportedly come under attack by unknown persons. What is even more noteworthy and sad but not surprising is the fact that the Slipway Police Depot and all-night Checkpoint, and the Central Bank where there’s a heavy deployment well-armed ERU Troops are just a stone throw from the station. “
Added Williams: “The pictures show a sign of the use of maximum force to breakthrough the facilities. Ordinarily, it’s not possible for anyone to be at the Slipway Police Depot and Checkpoint or the Central Bank and not hear the sound from such burglary. The fact that Costa officially reported the previous burglary to the police was sufficient notice to put the security agencies on the alert and leave them with no excuse. These people will become deadlier against their critics. There’s no more hidden signal left.”
Student political activist Martin Kollie has described the incident as an attack on THE MEDIA. Why is this happening. I thought free speech and press freedom are fundamental rights. Liberians will have to rise up to this NIGHTMARE. Roots FM is being heavily attacked for the second time in less than a month. The CDC-led government is overly intolerant and anti-democratic. The democratic gains of Liberia are fast eroding or reversing. We will have to stand up to this newborn dictator through mass civil action. We STAND with Henry P. Costa, Fidel Saydee, and Roots FM family. SAD Liberia under this new ruling clique of kleptocrats.”
Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon, administrator of the Darius Dillon Intellectual Exchange said the incident was targeted.
“We stand with Henry P. Costa and the Roots FM family. We condemn this devilish act against press freedom and free expression. Sadly, we have a govt that will say and do nothing about the constant attack on Roots FM, simply due to govt’s demonstrated intolerance and sheer dislike for critical dissenting voices. No matter what, Roots FM shall rise again and be even stronger and more vibrant!!!.”