Malawi’s giant and oldest media group, the Times Group has retrenched 20 members of staff, including television star Geoffrey Kapusa famously known as ‘Mr Splash’ as the company swims in stormy financial waters.
The revenue collectors, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has been closing down the company due to unremitted tax of a staggering K1 billion.
Sources at the company say the financial situation at the company is so dire that sometimes salaries are not paid on time.
Staff also said apart from the MRA, the company fails to remit pension money to pension fund managers, Old Mutual, saying staff retrenched three years ago are yet to get their pension money.
Another prominent journalist retrenched is Moses Chitsulo.
The list of the casualties including newsroom staff Prince Henderson, George Mhango, Carol Kandiero, and Benjamin Muona.
Former director of programs at MBC Albert Mungomo resigned after being tipped of the impending dismissal.
A credible source at Times confirmed the development saying the action has left the newsroom of the media empire owned by former president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda with skeleton staff.
The management accuses the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of politising the MRA, saying the closures are due to political influence.
The media group, which has a daily newspaper, a weekend newspaper, a Sunday paper, a radio and a television station is harsh for attacking the government and tows the line of the main opposition, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
The retrenchments are yearly occurrence at the Times Group.
The development has been received with anxiety among journalists and journalism students as the profession seems to create no space for a number of journalism students graduating in both public and private colleges and universities.
One of the graduates, speaking on conditions of anonymity said it’s all gloomy for journalism students.
“This is bad. It just shows that there is no future in this profession when you look at Bachelor’s of Journalism and Communication graduates, Masters graduates jobless,” he said, having been searching for a job three years after graduating.
He also said it was unfortunate that the decision to fire has come barely after being on a recruitment overdrive in the past six months.
“Some of those fired have just been recruited and you wonder why they could employ in the first place.”
Cuts are being made across the sector as newspapers struggle to replace lucrative print advertising revenue amid a continuing shift online by readers and increasing competition for news delivery from the likes Nyasa Times.
It presents a very worrying situation for the future of newspapers.