The flagship weekly newspaper, Malawi News will hit the streets as usual on Saturday despite being closed by Malawi Revenue Authority over millions in unpaid taxes, Nyasa Times has learnt.
The tax-body seized property of Malawi News publishers , Times Group and closed the news organisation at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre.
But Malawi News is coming out with the front page dominated by events surrounding its closure by MRA who the editor in chief George Kasakula says are acting under instructions from State House calling it an “act of impunity” from government.
“It is impunity and lawlessness on the part of the government. Just imagine, they came with a notice on Thursday around 4pm and, instead of offering us a chance for negotiations as they do in such cases — as you know that sometimes their figures can be wrong and you negotiate — they came 12 hours later to seize our property,” Kasakula said.
Reacting to the news, most people took on social media saying they are prepared to pay a little to save the news organisation which is playing its rightful role as a watchdong to the society and keeping government in check.
Meanwhile, Malawi chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi) said in a statement that it is “disturbed “with the closure of Times.
“While MISA Malawi does not condone default on taxes, we strongly believe that the closure of Times Group is ill-timed and can easily be construed as an attempt by government to stop the media house from further publication of the ‘maize gate’ stories specifically and silence critical voices generally,” Misa-Chairperson Thom Khanje said in a statement seen by Nyasa Times.
Khanje, a former business editor at Times, said the issue of unpaid taxes could have easily been resolved through mutual business negotiations.
“The closure of Times Group comes less than a week after the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) sought an injunction restraining the media outlet from publishing stories on the ‘maize gate.’
“The move by MRA will deny Malawians access to relevant information and likely to tarnish the image of the Peter Mutharika administration. The move is also likely to affect the operations of Times Radio and Times Television, in addition to those of Times newspapers,” Misa-Malawi said.
MISA Malawi says it believes that the best approach would have been to engage Times Group and resolve the matter in an amicable manner.
In the statement, MISA Malawi appealed to MRA and President Mutharika to re-open Times Group offices and allow for a progressive means of resolving the tax issues.
“Such a move will help to clear the impression that government has started taking systematic steps to suffocate the media, thereby strangling our young democracy in the process,” Khanje said.
Meanwhile, Times Group lawyer Patrick Mpaka was at High Court in Blantyre to seek relief to get the news organisation up and running.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :