IMC Bans Afri Radio in Sierra Leone
Findings conducted by this reporter have indicated that the Independent Media Commission (IMC) was directed by ‘Powers From Above’ to suspend Afri Radio, FM 105.3 such an action has prompted the Attorney General to express regret as according to the IMC Act, Afri Radio Limited did not contravene any Section of the said Act undermentioned below.
The suspension letter from the IMC dated 10th April, 2013 states, ‘I am directed to inform you that in view of the outcome of the various meetings held with ‘State Authorities’ and other stakeholders relating to the issuance of your Radio Broadcast License, and the fact that the IMC setup a Policy Committee to look into Media Ownership in Sierra Leone, the Commission hereby suspends the Broadcast License issued to you with immediate effect.’
In reply to the letter written by Lawyer Sulaiman Kabba Koroma, the Law Officers Department expressed regret that the Attorney General cannot ensure that the advice of the Minister of Information and Communications instructing the IMC to ban the radio be complied with as such instructions are in complete violation of the IMC Code of Practice 2000.
Under the IMC Code of Practice, a radio can only be suspended Under Section 36 (1) if any complaint, whether made by a member of the public or otherwise against a media institution or a person engaged in the provision of Media Services in which it is alleged that the institution person (a) is in contravention of the Media Code of Practice or (b) has contravened the terms and conditions of a radio or television broadcasting license or registration granted under this Act may be referred to the Commission.
(2) Where a complaint is referred to the Commission under Sub-section (1), the Complaint Committee appointed under Section 9 shall inquire into the complaint and make recommendations to the Commission for the imposition of penalty by the Commission, where the complaint has been proved.
Section 21 (1) of the same IMC 2000 Act also states that the Commission may, where it is certified that a radio or television broadcasting institution has not complied with any of the conditions of the license granted under this Act, either suspend or cancel that license.
Under Sub-section (2) no suspension or cancellation shall be made under Sub-section (1) unless the Commission has given a written notice to the media institution concerned specifying the conditions of the license which have not been complied with, giving directions for the rectification of the breach and the action proposed to be taken by the Commission in the event of noncompliance with the notice.
Section 3 Subject to subsection (2), the Commission shall not suspend or cancel a license unless the media institution has been given an opportunity to comply with the directions of the commission and to rectify the breach.
Section 4 states that the Commission may also suspend or cancel a radio or television licenses in respect of which there has been a second or subsequent contravention of the media Code of Practice.
What can be gleaned from the above sections is that the right to suspend the license of a radio station can only arise after the IMC has complied at first with the requirement under sections 36 subsection (2) and Section 21 subsections (2) respectively.
The letter dated the 18th day of March, 2013 addressed to the IMC aforesaid was an advice to the same to take action within the IMC Act 2000 and not a directive as stated in the letter dated the 28th day of March, 2013 addressed to the Attorney –General and Minister of Justice.
The IMC is an independent institution in the performance of its functions and is competent and capable of knowing how to respond to the advice given by the Minister of Information and Communications.
By A. R. Bedor Kamara
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