...Over Spoon Network Closure

MONROVIA-Since the closure of radio and television stations in Liberia-the Spoon Communication Network, there has been a war of words between the Government of Liberia and the main opposition, Unity Party over the situation.

In the war of words, Unity party Standard-bearer Joseph N. Boakai Claimed, “Weah administration suppressing the independent press. But the Liberian Government has taken serious exception to the UP Standard-bearer’s statement saying that it is appalled by the opposition leader’s ‘irresponsible’ attempt of the Standard-bearer to score political capital.

The leader of the main opposition Unity Party (UP), former Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai has linked the CDC government of President George Weah to Friday’s closure of the Spoon Network near Monrovia upon the order of the Civil Law Court, but the government has described his claim as “irresponsible.”

Earlier on Friday morning, officers of the Civil Law Court shut down the Spoon Network based on a lawsuit filed by former LISGIS Director General, Wilmot Smith in a Writ of Attachment for damages of Slander and Libel identified Spoon Communication Network as the first defendant while their CEO Stanton Witherspoon as second defendant.

The action by the court to close the station prompted former Vice President Boakai’s reaction who posted the following statement on his Facebook page; “Spoon Network Closure! Today, we continue to witness a troubling pattern of the Weah administration suppressing the independent press through kakistocratic means.”

The most recent casualty of this assault is the Spoon Network which includes Spoon FM, Fabric FM, Super FM, and their online TVs which were forcefully shut down over the weekend due to the government of Liberia’s inability to tolerate dissenting opinions. Meanwhile, pro-regime media outlets known for spreading hate messages are given free rein.

Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated one, as Punch FM and Roots FM has also experienced similar attacks. These media organizations, dedicated to maintaining their independence, have steadfastly refused to yield to the coercive demands of the Weah government.

Ambassador Boakai posted on his Facebook page, “We have no doubt the judiciary also upholds its independence and resists being used as a mere pawn in this political chess game. When the institution entrusted with the responsibility of impartial arbitration, the very essence of justice, allows itself to be manipulated for political gain, it undermines the fundamental rights of citizens. Such actions perpetuate a toxic democratic atmosphere, eroding the principles that underpin a well-functioning society.”

The above Facebook post by the United Party Standard Bearer, Joseph Boakai triggered this reaction from the Liberian government through the Ministry of Information under the signature of its Minister, Ledgerhood J. Rennie.

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia has clarified that it is not a party to the lawsuit brought against the Management of the Spoon Network, which on Friday, July 14 resulted in the closure of the station’s premises in Monrovia.

The Government understands that the suit was instead filed months ago by Mr. Wilmot Smith, a private citizen of the country, who once served as Deputy Director General for Information Coordination at LISGIS.

Mr. Smith stated in his lawsuit that following his dismissal from the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-information Services for Administrative Reasons by President George M. Weah, the station used its network to defame his reputation, characterizing him as a “Criminal.”

The case involving the two parties was brought before the court and has been ongoing for several months.  A writ was issued against Spoon FM’s Management and its owner, Mr. Stanton Witherspoon, on Friday morning, July 14, 2023.

The Government of Liberia re-emphasizes that it respects the right to freedom of speech and of the press as it has always demonstrated,  but is also cognizant of the fact that an individual feeling injured by the work of a media entity also has the right to seek redress under the laws of Liberia.

The courts, which are an integral part of the Judicial Branch of the Government, are independent of the Executive Branch, which has got no part in this private legal saga.

Meanwhile, the government is appalled by the irresponsible attempt of the standard bearer of the opposition Unity Party to score political capital out of a routine legal matter.

The Weah- led Administration’s press freedom record remains enviable, which has been repeatedly attested to by all international partners, including outgoing U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy.

Attempts by the UP Standard Bearer and others to link the government to this purely private legal matter are simply ridiculous, to say the least.”

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