Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Sierra Leone ALERT: President orders withdrawal of Afri Radio’s broadcast license
Afri Radio, a privately-owned radio station on April 12, 2013 had its broadcast license withdrawn by the statutory media regulatory body, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), following an alleged order from President Ernest Bai Koroma.
The decision to ban the radio station came after “various meetings held with state authorities … on the issuance of (Afri Radio’s) broadcast license” explained the IMC.
According to the Media Foundation for West (MFWA)’s correspondent, President Koroma, during a meeting with officials of the National Telecommunications Commission on April 9, 2013 reportedly ordered the Chairman of the IMC, Rod MacJohnson, to immediately suspend the broadcasting license of Afri Radio.
According to the correspondent, the IMC Chairman had initially refused a similar directive from the Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha Kanu to suspend Afri Radio’s broadcasting license on the basis that the Minister did not have any authority under the IMC Act of 2000 to order the suspension.
According to local reports, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo, had also in a letter dated April 10, expressed concern and refused to order the IMC to carry out the Minister’s directive, arguing that the IMC is the only body with the mandate to ban the radio station.
“According to Kargbo, the IMC is an independent agent in the performance of its functions and is competent and capable of knowing how to respond to the advice given to it by the Minister of Information and Communications. If the advice was taken seriatim, it will lead to substantial procedural defects which in principle and in law contravenes the IMC Act of 2000”, the correspondent reported.
The circumstances surrounding Radio Afri’s suspension has stunned majority of Sierra Leoneans, particularly President Koroma’s directive and this has raised questions about the independence of the IMC.
The MFWA calls on President Koroma and his government to respect the independence of the IMC, and allow it to carry out its regulatory mandate under the Act that established it as advised by the State Attorney.