Authorities in Zambia have closed the country’s main private owned newspaper, a move that has been described as an attempt to stifle the media ahead of elections in August.
Managing editor of the Post newspaper, Joseph Mwenda, said police and tax officials shut down the newspaper’s offices in Lusaka on Tuesday saying the media house is failing to pay taxes.
Mwenda admitted that the newspaper owes about $4.8 million (3.4 billion Malawi kwacha) in unpaid taxes but he maintained that the closure of the paper was illegal since they paid part of the money.
“This is a clear abuse of power because we have paid some money and we even have a court order stopping them from going ahead but they have disobeyed the courts,” he said. “It’s clear that they want us shut down ahead of the elections.”
The closure left the newspaper’s staff gathered outside the locked building on Wednesday but on Tuesday night they had managed to produce the daily paper with the help of a private printing company.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has condemned the closure of the media house saying it is a deliberate ploy to silence the media.
“The shutting down of one of Zambia’s main independent newspapers in the run up to an election is an affront to media freedom and the authorities should immediately reverse their decision,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
The Post, which was established in 1991, has been critical of President Edgar Lungu, who is seeking re-election in the August 11 elections.