Sierra Leone ALERT: Opposition radio station shut down

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Unity Radio, a station run by the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), was on May 8, 2008 shut down on the orders of the Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo.
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the closure according to Kargbo, was due to the installation of an illegal antenna which disturbed the transmission of other radio stations, and the fact that SLPP did not go through the right procedures to register Unity Radio.

The statement by Kargbo followed a release by the Secretary General of the SLPP, Jacob Jusu Saffa, which alleged that the party had done nothing wrong, and that the Ministry of Information and Communication did not have the authority to shut down Unity.

Saffa claimed that any interference with frequencies should be reported to the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which has the authority to notify the station. The Ministry, however, had no business interfering, Saffa asserted.

According to Saffa, the shut-down was a deliberate attempt by the government to silence the opposition of Sierra Leone. This was denied by Kargbo, who claimed that the closure was instigated by other radio stations which had lodged official complaints on frequency interference by Unity to the ministry.

According to the correspondent, the Chairperson of the IMC, Bernadette Cole, said that the Ministry’s decision to shut down Unity Radio was flawed and that the complaints from the affected radio stations should have been processed by either the IMC or the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) which is responsible for issuing out frequencies.

In the statement by Kargbo, the Minister made it clear that if the SLPP radio goes through the proper channels and remedies the frequency interference, the government would have no reason to uphold the shut-down.

Media Foundation for West Africa