Headline — 27 January 2015 — by Kareem Clarke

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 26, 2015–Veteran LOVE FM talk show host Nuri Muhammad, who was recently at the center of a controversy stemming from an incident in which he was seen as having been politically biased while on that station’s morning talk show, has been terminated following a meeting of the management of RSV Ltd., the parent company of LOVE FM.

The announcement was aired today on LOVE TV via a televised statement made by RSV Chief Executive Officer, Rene Villanueva, Sr., who had been out of the country at the time that the incident occurred two weeks ago, sometime before Wednesday, January 14.

On that day, two high-ranking Cabinet Ministers – Labour Minister and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Senator Godwin Hulse, and Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington – were scheduled to appear on LOVE FM’s morning talk show to defend the position of the Government, which had taken flak after individuals within the sugar industry and members of the public pointed fingers at the Barrow administration, alleging collusion with multinational foreign investors from American Sugar Refineries (ASR) to undermine the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), some of whose members were clamoring against what they categorized as a “one-sided” proposed commercial purchasing agreement that was lately signed between the factory owners and the cane growers.

In what was thought to be a political tactic to muzzle Muhammad, he was abruptly pulled from the show that day, and soon after the weekend’s Amandala editorial of Sunday, January 18, said that there were rumors that government operatives gave directives to the station’s proprietors to remove Muhammad from the show that day, word began to spread of Government’s apparent collusion with RSV Ltd.’s owners against Muhammad.

A few days later, Muhammad appeared on KREM Radio/TV’s Sunday Review and spoke publicly about the situation, saying that it “came as a shock” because he had never been “censored” before on the show, which led him to believe that he is being perceived as “anti-government” and an “undercover PUP who is trying to make the government look bad”.

In his statement today, Villanueva, Sr., said that upon returning to the country a week and a half after the incident, he was “most disheartened to learn how this very minute issue has spiraled out of control”, and assured that “Mr. Muhammad was valued by the executives and management of the [LOVE FM] organization for his outspoken nature, interest and willingness to tackle prevalent issues with fervor [and]…was never censored or chastised in any way or at any time for his conduct on the couch.”

He said, “The executive management of RSV Ltd., which comprises of LOVE FM, LOVE Television, Estereo Amor, and MORE FM, encourages all employees to be independent thinkers, and fosters an environment that empowers all members of staff to have creative control over their specific areas while allowing for freedom of speech and treating the public with respect.”

Villanueva stated, “We are proud of the reputation we have earned for being fair and objective in our reporting and handling of information; however, when an employee blatantly puts the lives of his co-workers at risk by making irresponsible statements that could be misconstrued and put the company’s reputation at risk, it is the responsibility of the executive management to address the issue.”

In conclusion, Villanueva said that “the executive management of RSV Ltd. met, and a unanimous decision was reached that Mr. Muhammad’s tenure should come to an end.”

“This decision was relayed to Mr. Muhammad at a meeting held this morning, Monday, January 26. We wish him all the best and much success in his future endeavors”, he further remarked.

When KREM News and Amandala got in contact with Villanueva late this evening to find out what exactly did Muhammad say that “put the lives of his co-workers and the reputation of the company at risk,” he simply directed us to his statement that was aired on LOVE Television today.

Of note is that we were informed that Muhammad was put on suspension after publicly speaking about the matter on KREM’s Sunday Review.

Since the news broke, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Hon. Godwin Hulse have categorically denied the accusation that it was Government’s intervention that resulted in Muhammad being pulled from the show in question.

Opposition Leader Hon. Francis Fonseca, for his part, has denounced the rumored reasons for the firing of Muhammad, describing them as “troubling”, and “not a road that we want to travel in Belize.”

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