Riot police have shut a popular radio station critical of Liberia’s president and former football star George Weah.
The officers broke a steel gate and stormed the offices of Roots FM in the capital, Monrovia, shortly after its breakfast programme, The Costa Show, discussed alleged wasteful spending by Mr Weah while “his people suffer”.
Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean confirmed to reporters that riot police had been dispatched after his office had received a letter from the Liberia Telecommunications Authority LTA complaining that the station and two others were operating without a licence.
The justice minister did not say why the government did not turn to the courts to force the closure, as required by law.
As police hammered the gate to enter the station, Henry Costa, its US-based owner who hosts the show via the internet, called on his followers to come and “rescue” it.
“We have to hold together, don’t let them take our equipment away,” Costa pleaded.
“I am watching the thing live as they break into our radio station,” he cried out in vain. “It is a sad day for Liberia.”
As Costa spoke, the banging of hammers on the gate could be heard.
In response to his call, eyewitnesses say more than 400 people arrived at the station within minutes, but this did not stop the police from shutting it down.
An eyewitness calling from a nearby building said in a report he saw police loading the station’s broadcast equipment into a waiting vehicle after it had been forced off-air.
Roots FM has had a bad relationship with Mr Weah’s government since the former footballer assumed the presidency nearly two years ago.
Before Thursday’s action, the station said it was in compliance with all broadcast regulations, and had asked for a renewal of its licence.