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Zambia shuts down independent newspaper ahead of elections

Zambian authorities have called on the newspaper to pay millions of dollars in back taxes. But Amnesty International slammed the move, saying it "threatens the right to freedom of expression."

Zambian authorities on Wednesday shut down "The Post," considered Zambia's largest independent newspaper, over unpaid taxes.

Managing editor Joseph Mwenda told AFP news agency that police and tax officials physically closed the newspaper's premises, locking out employees.

The Zambia Revenue Authority, the country's official tax body, demanded the newspaper pay nearly $6 million (5.3 million euros) in owed taxes, which "The Post" admits to owing authorities.

But Mwenda said that part of the sum had been paid to the government, saying the move to close the newspaper is in fact aimed at silencing the press ahead of general elections in August.

"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," the editor said.

"It's clear that they want us shut down ahead of the elections," he added.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday slammed the government's decision to close "The Post," saying the move aimed to impede critical voices in the country.

"If the newspaper owes taxes, necessary arrangements should be made to settle the dispute. Shutting down the newspaper threatens the right to freedom of expression," said Deprose Muchena, director of southern Africa at Amnesty.

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ls/kl (AFP, dpa, AP)

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