Gambia’s premier daily newspaper, the Daily Observer Newspaper, has been shutdown by the Gambian government with immediate effect, the Freedom Newspaper can authoritatively report. The paper is said to be owing D17 million dalasi, which is over $300,0000 dollars, in back taxes to the Gambian government. The notice for the temporal closure of the paper was served to the paper’s Management today, according to Pa Modou Mbowe, the Managing Director of the company.
The Daily Observer Newspaper was launched in the Gambia in 1992, by Kenneth Y Best, a Liberian Journalist. Mr. Best, who was living in exile in the West African country, was later deported by the former military junta headed by dictator Yahya Jammeh. His paper was later sold to dictator Yahay Jammeh, through a close associate of Jammeh Mr. Samba.
The paper has since been transformed as a pro-government newspaper—by publishing stories favorable to the government. Many journalists have been fired since Jammeh bought the paper.
It was during Gambia’s month long political impasse that Mr. Jammeh hired Pa Modou Mbowe to head the paper. Mr. Mbowe, is a resident of the United Kingdom. He told the Freedom Newspaper that it is unfortunate that the paper has been closed.
“I can confirm to you that the Daily Observer has been closed by the Barrow government. I received a letter today from the Gambia Revenue Authority, (GRA) instructing us to cease publication. The paper is owing the state D17 million taxes dating back in 20007. The paper is also owing couple of thousands of dalasis to other companies. The paper indebted to many institutions. This was prior to me taking over the paper. I have been very working hard to pay my staff and settle the paper’s debts. I do not know they are closing the paper at this time–given the fact that the back taxes has been there since 2007. They knew about it well before the change of government, ” he said.
Mr. Mbowe said the Daily Observer has a payroll of 80 people and 17 freelance journalists. “ We have 105 people working for this paper. The latest decision to shutdown the paper, will render all these folks unemployed. I was employed by Yahya Jammeh, the former president to head the Daily Observer. I had to leave England to stay here and create employment opportunities for our people. I am a Gambian; I am interested in the development of this country. That’s why I had to come home and contribute my quota to national development. It is very sad that the paper is closed,” Mr. Mbowe added.
Mr. Mbowe says the GRA letter intimated that the closure would be temporal for two weeks pending further actions.
GRA Officials could not be reached for comment.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai