Gambian authorities have shut down the country’s biggest newspaper, the second time since the coming to power of the new government, over tax evasion.
The Daily Observer owes at least $440,000 (D17.6 million dalasis) in taxes, the company had refused to pay since its taking over by the country’s erstwhile President Yahya Jammeh.
Jammeh had used the paper as the propaganda mouthpiece of his regime. Tax authorities feared to shut down the paper due to reprisal from Jammeh, who was an absolute ruler.
Staff were asked to clear up their desk and leave at about noon on Wednesday. The police have secured the place and all locked all its workers out.
The company’s Managing Director Pa Modou Mbowe, who was in talks with revenue authorities was abruptly sacked after staff revolted and challenged his running of the paper.
The company has about 104 staffers, including freelancers who are now hoping that the paper will be reopened or be forced to seek employment.
The paper is among Jammeh’s companies that have also been affected by an asset freeze and its management transferred to the accounting firm, Augustus Prom.
The Observer was tentatively closed down by the Gambia Revenue Authority in July but reopened shortly after. The Revenue Authority has dragged the company to court to recover the past due taxes.