Dozens of armed police closed Roots FM on 10 October as it was broadcasting its most popular show, The Costa Show. It is hosted by the station’s owner, Henry Costa, a political commentator who is very critical of President George Weah.
When Roots FM announced on the air that it was under attack, a large crowd quickly appeared outside, leading to clashes with the police. According to local media reports, the police removed equipment and documents from the radio station.
After Roots FM’s closure, the angry crowd went to the headquarters of Freedom FM, a radio station owned by National Security Agency deputy director Sam Siryon, and called for it to be closed as well because it criticizes opposition leaders. After stones were thrown at Freedom FM vehicles, the police carried out arrests in the street.
“Roots FM’s closure, after many attacks on this radio station since the start of the year, is a disturbing sign of the decline in the press freedom situation in Liberia,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “We urge respect for media pluralism. The Liberian government must also guarantee the security of both of these radio station’s journalists and their broadcast equipment."
These events occur a few days after the Press Union of Liberia had accused both Roots FM and Freedom FM of broadcasting “hate speech and insults” and, in a statement on 1 October, had called for both stations to be closed because of their “constant ethical breaches.”
Liberia is ranked 93rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.