Burkinabe government shut down investigative newspaper over tax

Burkina Faso’s tax authorities have shut down an investigative newspaper over unpaid taxes. The shutdown raises concern about the possible collapse of the media outlet.

L’Évènement, is said to owe over 20 million CFA francs (about $32,000) for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. The media outlet was shut down on June 2, 2023, without any prior notice.

The sudden closure over failure to pay taxes is particularly alarming considering the very difficult economic context in which companies in all sectors, in particular the press, are operating.

The issue of taxation for the press has been an ongoing debate, as many media outlets have accumulated tax debts. Discussions have been held under the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication to find a viable solution.

The Centre National de Presse Norbert Zongo (CNP-NZ) and the Société des éditeurs de la presse privée (SEP) denounced the shutdown as politically-motivated financial harassment.

“Closing a newspaper down due to tax issues is not only a poor solution to a real problem, but also an infringement on the right to press freedom. While we can understand the desire of the tax authorities to do their job, it is difficult not to make the connection between the work of this investigative newspaper and its closure. This decision is all the more incomprehensible in that it comes at a time when the newspaper’s directors were in discussions with the tax authorities with a view to gradually paying off its debts”, SEP stated in a press release.

The two organizations also called for support for “this indispensable tool for good governance and accountability in Burkina Faso”. They called for voluntary subscriptions to help preserve the rule of law, guarantee democracy and the right to information.

The investigative Burkinabe newspaper, L’Evènement, was founded in May 2001 and has played a key role in promoting a more responsible press in Burkina Faso. It has gained credibility through its rigorous reporting. The newspaper has been regularly publishing since its inception and has received several national and international awards, including the Norbert Zongo Prize for investigative journalism and the Galian Prize. In 2006, it won the first CNN prize for print journalism.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is concerned about the suspension of the investigative newspaper which is a source of information to thousands of citizens. We therefore urge the tax authorities to reconsider their decision.

We also invite the tax authorities to maintain a spirit of cooperation and understanding. Given the precarious context in which the Burkinabe press operates, with low readership and limited space for advertising. The media sector has also been seriously affected by the Covid-19 health crisis, resulting in significant decline in revenue.

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