Malawi media group closed over alleged unpaid tax

2017-01-13 22:14
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Blantyre - Malawian tax authorities on Friday closed the offices of the country's biggest media firm, the Times Group, which has been critical of the government and investigated controversial maize contracts.

The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), accompanied by heavily armed police, shut the group's offices in Blantyre, Malawi's business capital, over allegations of tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.

"The MRA sealed our offices over taxes and yet we have been paying our taxes," George Kasakula, group editor-in-chief, told AFP.

"It is lawlessness on the part of government. This is politically motivated."

The Times Group, which runs a radio station, television channel and daily newspaper, is owned by the family of the late dictator Hastings Banda.

The group's outlets are generally sympathetic towards the opposition Malawi Congress Party, which was led by Banda during his three decades in power.

Kasakula suggested the closure was linked to coverage of how President Peter Mutharika's government had bought expensive emergency maize from neighbouring Zambia during the recent drought.

"We will continue to publish and broadcast truth," he said.

All staff at the sprawling offices were ordered by police to vacate the premises, and the radio and television stations suspended live broadcasts.

"The move gives the impression that government is taking systematic steps to suffocate media," Thom Khanje, who chairs the local branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, told AFP.

He appealed to the government to reopen the offices and "allow for a progressive means of resolving any tax issues."

The tax authority and government were not immediately available to comment.

In neighbouring Zambia, the Post - the leading opposition newspaper - was closed last year over alleged tax issues ahead of the election in which President Edgar Lungu regained power.

Read more on:    malawi  |  southern africa

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