Minister Demands US$500,000, Shutdown of Radio Station in Defamation Suit

 

Liberia’s Minster of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, has sued talk show host Henry Costa demanding US$500,000 in damages and the shutdown of his radio station.

Minister McGill, one of President George Weah’s closest associates, filed the “Action of Damages for Slander” at the Civil Law Court of Montserrado County on April 15, 2019.

“You are hereby ordered to summon the within-named defendants, the Management of Roots FM 102.7, the Henry Costa show co-host, Fidel Saydee, Henry Pedro Costa, producer and owner of the Henry Costa Show also of the city of Monrovia”, read the summon.

The Center for Media Studies and Peace-building (CEMESP), MFWA’s partner organisation in Liberia, reports that the suit followed a letter written by Henry Costa to the America Embassy in Liberia, alleging government sabotage of Roots FM.

“On Friday last week, while we were on the Costa Show at about 9:10 am, many of our listeners began to complain that they were suddenly hearing old clips from past editions, instead of our live broadcast on our frequency, Roots FM 102.7,” Costa said in the letter.

In his suit, McGill complains that The Costa show is “a very divisive program that rivals the pre-1994 Radio Rwanda style of broadcasting” and described the station as “a platform to blackmail and extort, extremely proficient in profanities rather than speaking the truth.” The plaintiff’s lawyers added that the conduct of Costa has made their client suffer “emotional stress and psychological humiliation from the general public.”

The plaintiff is therefore praying Judge Yusif D. Kaba to commit the defendants to pay US$500,000 in general damages and order the shutdown of Roots FM.

The Minister’s action adds to recent setbacks suffered by Roots FM. The station was twice attacked by unknown assailants within ten days – January 31 and February 10, 2019.

The MFWA and CEMESP are deeply concerned about the suit against Roots FM, especially because the reliefs the minister is seeking are overwhelming. McGill’s action risks undermining Liberia’s recent progress in scrapping its criminal libel laws. We, therefore, urge the minister to withdraw the suit.

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