By Lamin Cham
The Daily Observer, the legendary name in Gambian newspaper industry, which began publication in May 1992, has been shut down on the orders of the Gambia Revenue Authority, GRA, reliable sources told The Standard yesterday.
According to our sources, the GRA officials moved in to lock up the newspaper’s offices on GACEM Road yesterday afternoon.
Ousman Bah, head of Corporate and Public Affairs at GRA, said the closure of the Daily Observer is temporary, pending the institution paying up arrears owed to the Authority. “This is routine operations by the GRA when all efforts failed to recover tax from serious defaulters. We never want to take this last option in any case because as you know, when a business is closed, we cannot collect tax. However, the GRA Act and other laws mandated that when necessary we have to take this line. However, the Daily Observer and any other businesses affected are free to resume work once they pay up,” Mr Bah said.
He also stressed that this move has nothing to do with politics or the change of government. “The GRA is a technical arm of government mandated to collect tax for the state without discrimination,” he added.
The Standard also spoke with a senior staff of the company who confirmed the visit of the GRA but will not offer details. “Yes we have been told that the company should stop publications from now.”
Asked if the closure may have to do with tax arrears, our source within the company said that seems likely because there was a correspondence from GRA on that matter. “But I would not know what triggered this new development.”
Liberian journalist Kenneth Best started the Daily Observer on May 11 1992 but in May 1999, it was reported that the company was sold to businessman Amadou Samba. However, during the last 13 years the Company’s affairs were directly controlled by the office of former President Yahya Jammeh.
Meanwhile, Daily Observer Managing Director Pa Modou Mbowe has told the West Africa Democracy Radio that the closure of the newspaper is due to unpaid tax amounting to millions of Dalasis, but blames the Gambia Revenue Authority for not taking action when the tax arrears were ‘small’. He also confirmed he was appointed by ex-president Yahya Jammeh, but says he has no clue who owns Daily Observer newspaper.