Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews) – A former Gambian newspaper editor has strongly criticised Wednesday’s arbitrary closure of the country’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Observer.

Alagi Yorro Jallow, former managing editor of The Independent, which was banned by the previous regime of President Yahya Jammeh in 2005, said the closure of the newspaper was clearly designed to silence critical media voices and an affront to media freedom and the authorities.

The Daily Observer was ordered to cease operation by the enforcement officers of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) who have accused the paper of owing about D17 million in tax arrears.

But Mr Jallow said the way GRA acted against the  newspaper could justify arguments that the closure action is not only in bad faith but also politically motivated.

“The Daily Observer newspaper grew into one of the best Gambian brands and diversified into courier and information services,” Mr Jallow said.

He added: “Previous regimes targeted the Daily Observer Newspaper with closure but it refused to die. It is my opinion that Gambia Revenue Authority’s action has been politically influenced as there are a lot of companies that owe the Gambia Revenue Authority huge sums of money but can operate. I am also surprised with the speed at which the Revenue Authority processed the case as it has thousands of cases awaiting to be processed.”

Mr Jallow further argued: “The closure of a business is an economical disaster as families and other businesses that depended on it experience difficulties of varying magnitude. The closure of the Daily Observer newspaper is not about Yahya Jammeh, Amadou Samba or Baba Jobe. Think about the few workers employed as editors, journalists, security guards, garden boys… And more deeply and emotionally, think about the street vendors who depend on 10 Dalasi per day they make from newspaper sales. All these will be denied money for rent, food, school fees. This is political miscalculation. Like shooting your own leg.

“As a former proprietor, the Independent and a victim of arbitrary closure I am urging the Gambia Government to work with the Gambian Revenue Authority and the Daily Observer to find a way forward that allows Daily Observer to reopen immediately.

“And I am appealing to the Government to reconsider the decision to close the Daily Observer Newspapers and avoid throwing hundreds of workers into unemployment thereby adversely affecting the welfare of their families.”