The Sheriff Division has taken over the premises of the Daily Observer Newspaper and the assets of the paper will now be sold in order to pay off the amount owed to the Gambia Revenue Authority. This is a cause for concern.
Efforts should have been made to ensure that whatever the case, the closing of a daily newspaper will not be an outcome. The media is a very important part of a democracy because the media holds the government to account. So, the issue of money should never be used to silence a media outlet.
Previously, the minister of justice promised that the newspaper will not be shut down. So it is strange that out of nowhere, members of the Police Intervention Unit came and took over the premises.
Government should rethink the closure of the biggest newspaper in the country lest it is seen as clamping down on the media, especially considering the fact that the paper has some connection to the former president.
Government also has another reason why they should not close down the paper. It is the duty of a government to provide employment for its citizens. Thus taking any action that will take away employment from a section of the Gambian citizens should be avoided at all cost.
The Gambia Press Union should take an active role in mediating between the Daily Observer management and the government of the Gambia. The livelihood of a large number of Gambians of their profession – journalists – is at stake. The GPU should therefore take a lead role in ensuring that the decision to close the paper down is rescinded as soon as possible.
Surely, there must be a way the government can resolve this issue without taking drastic measures which may be counterproductive.