Authorities in the Gambia Wednesday ordered the closure of the country’s first newspaper, the Daily Observer.
The newspaper which supports former President Yahya Jammeh and his APRC party, is accused of failing to pay millions of Dalasis in tax to the country’s revenue authority (GRA).
According to sources, an enforcement team of GRA entered the paper’s premises in Kanifing at around 15:00 while staff were working on the next day’s edition and ordered them to vacate the building.
The management of the newspaper was not available for comment at the time of posting this story.
The Daily Observer was founded by Kenneth Best in 1990 and is credited for transforming journalism in the Gambia.
Mr Best had previously managed another paper called the Daily Observer in Liberia, until the First Liberian Civil War caused him to relocate with his family to the Gambia.
He was later expelled from the Gambia in October 1994 by the military junta of Yahya Jammeh which took over power a few months earlier.
Although the newspaper was allowed to continue operation, Mr Best sold it in 1999 to Amadou Samba, a business tycoon and closed associate of former President Yahya Jammeh.
The Gambia’s Minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, Demba Jawo, has issued a statement, explaining that the closure of the Daily Observer has nothing to do with the paper’s editorial policy. Rather, he said, the development resulted from the company’s failure to pay over D17 million tax arrears that it is owing to the GRA despite several reminders.
“The Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure has learnt with concern the “temporary” closure of the Daily Observer newspaper by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) due to its non-compliance with its tax obligations.
The Ministry however wishes to reiterate that the closure has nothing to do with the paper’s editorial policy, but it is as a result of the Observer Company’s failure to pay over D17 million tax arrears that it is owing to the GRA despite several reminders.
The Ministry has been reliably informed that in the past, the GRA had reached an agreement for a payment plan but the Observer Company had failed to honour its own part of the agreement.
Therefore, the GRA was relying on the powers conferred on it by Section 215 of the Income and Value-Added Tax Act 2012 which gives it the authority to temporarily close down any persist defaulter.
The GRA has however expressed the hope that the temporary closure would open a window of opportunity to renegotiate a way forward with the Observer Company with a view to settling the outstanding arrears.
Once again, the Ministry regrets the action and will be working towards an amicable resolution of the impasse that would enable the Daily Observer resume operations as soon as possible. ”
(Sources: JollofNews & Kairo News)