Liberia shuts radio station critical of President George Weah

George Weah, a former football star, became president of Liberia in January of last year. (Reuters)
Updated 10 October 2019

Liberia shuts radio station critical of President George Weah

  • Roots FM, owned by Henry Costa, is one of the leaders of a group that organized a large anti-government street protest on June 17
  • Liberia’s solicitor general said the station was blackmailing people and instigating violence

MONROVIA: Liberian police on Thursday closed a radio station critical of President George Weah, accusing it of inciting violence, and used tear gas to disperse people protesting against the move.
Roots FM, owned by Henry Costa, is one of the leaders of a group that organized a large anti-government street protest on June 17, paralysing several areas of the seaside capital Monrovia.
Costa is a fierce critic of Weah, a former international football star who became president of the country in January last year.
Heavily armed police riot units ringed the radio station building on Thursday morning, making it impossible for workers to move in and out.
They also fired tear gas on the station’s supporters gathered outside.
Costa, who is in the United States from where he usually produces a show for his radio station in Liberia, was defiant.
“It is indeed a very sad day, but I can assure you that we will never be silenced,” Costa told AFP in a telephone interview.
Liberia’s solicitor general said the station was blackmailing people and instigating violence.
“They have begun criminal acts of extortion and blackmail. They use their media to spread inflammatory messages against Liberian citizens, and engage in incitement.
“Beginning today there will be no public demonstration that is not ... sanctioned by the government of Liberia,” Cyrinus Cephus told a press conference.
The Press Union of Liberia last week denounced Roots FM and Freedom FM, another radio that is owned by a government official, for “always insulting people on radio.
“That is not journalism. You cannot ask people to give you money or you talk bad about them. That is destroying the image of good journalism in Liberia. I call on the government to take action against Roots FM and Freedom FM,” its president Charles Coffey said.


Turkish court upholds verdict against 12 ex-staff of opposition newspaper

Updated 21 November 2019

Turkish court upholds verdict against 12 ex-staff of opposition newspaper

  • 14 employees of Cumhuriyet were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges
  • The case drew global outrage over press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court on Thursday upheld its conviction of 12 former employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper despite a higher court ruling, a lawyer for the newspaper said.
The court acquitted a 13th defendant, journalist Kadri Gursel, due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest, said the lawyer, Tora Pekin.
In a case that drew global outrage over press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan, 14 employees of Cumhuriyet — one of the few remaining voices critical of the government — were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges.
They were accused of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front militant groups, as well as the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says organized a 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies any involvement.
The Cumhuriyet staff have been in and out of jail for the duration of their trials. The 14th defendant, Cumhuriyet accountant Emre Iper, was released last month and his case is still under court review.
The Court of Cassation, Turkey’s high court of appeals, had ruled in September for the 13 defendants to be acquitted, with the exception of journalist and politician Ahmet Sik. The court said Sik should be tried for a different crime.
The case of the 12 defendants will now be re-evaluated by the Court of Cassation, Pekin said.
“With the Court of Cassation ruling (in September), we thought this endless arbitrariness and injustice were ending. But we understood in court today that it wasn’t so,” said Pekin.
Since the failed coup, authorities have jailed 77,000 people pending trial, while 150,000, including civil servants, judges, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. Some 150 media outlets have also been closed.
A global press watchdog said on Tuesday more than 120 journalists were still being held in Turkey’s jails, a global record.
Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concern over the scale of the crackdown. Rights groups accuse Erdogan of using the coup as a pretext to quash dissent.