A member of parliament for Lilongwe city south east Ulemu Msungana on Tuesday took the government to task over its decision to close down Times Media Group over tax evasion allegations.
Times Group, which has been critical of the government and investigated controversial maize contracts, is the biggest and oldest media organization in Malawi. It publishes a newspaper, The Times, alongside a radio and TV network.
Msungama said it was hypocricy to close down a private and independent media organisation while bailing out biased state run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
“I am concerned because the media plays a huge role in the dissemination of information,” he said.
He told the government to stop going after people, including the media, who blow the whistle on corruption.
But Minister of Information and Communication Technology Nicholas Dausi said media houses should learn to remit tax to the Malawi Revenue Authority.
He said Times owes MRA K2.50 billion in tax arrears, saying K600 million is for pay as you earn tax arrears.
Dausi told the MPs to encourage people including the media pay tax on time.
But International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists and media executives for media freedom pointed out that government is using public-tax collector “to stifle an independent voice and silence a noted critical voice in the country”.
Times Media Group ruffled the feathers of government with publications of articles on maize involving former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda.
The revelations in the media led civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country to exert pressure on government and demands Chaponda to step down to allow for smooth investigations into the deal. He was prosecuted and acquitted.
However,CSOs claimed the State tactically presented a weaker case and pressed Anti Corruption Bureau to appeal the case.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :