Home Politics ‘SPOON’ Closure Sparks Uproar …As Gov’t Distances Itself From Court’s Action

‘SPOON’ Closure Sparks Uproar …As Gov’t Distances Itself From Court’s Action

by newsmanager

MONROVIA: In the face of widespread public outcries bordering on the closure of Liberia’s newest broadcast sensation, SPOON Network, (a conglomeration of radio, TVs Social media Platforms), several critical thinkers including opposition politicians have condemned the measure against the broadcast media entity.
Although, the lawsuit against the media conglomerate was carried out by a former government official, Wilmot Smith, critics of the government disagreed with the form and manner in which the closure was done.
The main opposition leader, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, was quick to criticize SPOON’s closure, describing the actions as George Weah’s administration of suppressing the Independent press through “kakistocratic” means.

Ambassador Boakai: “Today, we continue to witness a troubling pattern of the Weah administration suppressing the independent press through kakistocratic means.”

However, the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), has termed as “irresponsible” accusation made by Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai; standard bearer of the Unity Party (UP) that GOL masterminded the closure of Spoon Network.
On Friday, July 14, 2023, a press statement, under the signature of Information Minister Ledgerhood Julius Rennie, said the government rated Ambassador Boakai’s accusation as appalling and meant to score undue political point at the government’s expense.
“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,” the MICAT statement added.
The statement noted that the Weah-led Administration press freedom record remains enviable, which has been repeatedly attested to by all international partners, including outgoing U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy.
Meanwhile, 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, 2023 resulted in the closure of the station’s premises in Monrovia through a court action.
The Government contends that it understands that the lawsuit 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 Liberia Institute Statistics Geo Information Services LISGIS.
As stated in the lawsuit, following Mr. Smith dismissal from the LISGIS for Administrative Reasons by President George M. Weah, the Spoon Network used its radio station via the Spoon Talk night time program to defame his reputation, characterizing him as a “Criminal”.
The government further clarified that the legal case involving the two parties was brought before the court and has been ongoing for several months.
The government re-emphasized that it respects the right to freedom of speech and of the press as it has always demonstrated, but it 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,’ the statement added.
On Friday, July 14, 2023, the Judge in Chamber at the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Montserrado County, J. Kennedy Peabody, issued a writ to shut-down the SPOON Network for action of damages for “Slander and Libel”.

The writ, which copy is in possession of this paper, ordered the Management of SPOON and Mr. Stanton Witherspoon to be arrested and be placed under custody, if they fail to show property to cover the amount of US$5,250,000.00.

The writ said, “The Management of Spoon TV and FM Communication Network of the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Liberia, 1st Defendant, Mr. Stanton Witherspoon, also of the City of Monrovia, 2nd Defendant of the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County.

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”.

At the same time, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) joined former VP Boakai and others to condemn what the Union termed as an Arbitrary Closure of Spoon Network Incorporated.

The PUL, in its release dated July 14, 2023, strongly denounced the recent order by the Civil Law Court to shut down SPOON Network Incorporated, considering it a “direct infringement on freedom of expression and the free press.”

The PUL said that it viewed the court`s action as arbitrary, intimidating, and an attack on the fundamental principles of democracy.

The mother body of all journalists and media houses in the country, the PUL emphasized that the court’s decision undermines democratic values and the significant progress made by the government to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and free speech.
“Such actions hinder the development of an open and transparent society,” the statement read.
The Press Union vehemently condemned the closure of the Spoon Network, describing it as a barbaric and harsh decision that seems to carry the venom of a politically exposed person.
The Union believes that this matter should be treated as a civil issue and not a criminal one, highlighting the need for a judicial approach rather than a political one.

It (PUL) insists that the action to issue a writ on a broadcaster with an attachment order is clearly to get it off air and has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case.

This action, the PUL opined, is an intentional closure of Spoon Network, intending to damage its standard and lower its rating by the time the ban is lifted.

The Press Union of Liberia has at the same time urged the relevant authorities, including the civil law court, to reconsider their decision and reinstate the operations of Spoon Network Incorporated.
PUL: “The closure of Spoon Network is aimed at stifling freedom of the press, especially in a country where the press is only partially free, according to freedom trackers; this closure suggests a deliberate attempt to restrict or suppress the press, which is a fundamental pillar of a democratic society.”
The PUL noted that Freedom of the press is a vital component of a functioning democracy, as it allows for the free flow of information, promotes transparency, and holds those in power accountable.
The Union asserted that when courts are used to silence or hinder the press, it undermines these principles and threatens the overall democratic fabric of a country.
According to the Union, the shutting down of Spoon Network by courts or using them to curtail the freedom of the press, it becomes difficult for journalists to carry out their work effectively.
“They are likely to face legal hurdles, intimidation, or even imprisonment, preventing them from reporting on important issues or uncovering wrongdoing, the statement read.
The Press Union of Liberia is a professional organization that represents journalists and media workers in Liberia. It aims to promote press freedom, protect the rights of journalists, and uphold ethical standards in the media industry.

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