Freedom of the Press 2009 - Gabon
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Gabon, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b27421528.html [accessed 10 December 2013]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24 (of 30)
Political Environment: 23 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 22 (of 30)
Total Score: 69 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
The government began tightening its control over the country's media through the main regulatory body, the National Communications Council (CNC), in 2007, and it continued this process in 2008 with the jailing and beating of journalists and the closure of several publications. Reporting on the health or wealth of President Omar Bongo, in power since 1968, drew particularly harsh treatment.
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, but authorities used legal harassment, threats, and financial pressure to curb critical reporting. There is also frequent censorship.
Libel can be treated as either a civil or a criminal offense, and the government is permitted to criminalize civil suits and initiate criminal cases in response to the alleged libel of government officials.
Among other media closures during the year, the private semimonthly Tendance Gabon was suspended for three months for reporting critically on the president. The bimonthly Edzombolo was closed, also for three months, for defaming "prominent state personalities." And the private newspaper Croissance Saine Environnement was banned from March to August for criticizing a government official. Two publications banned in 2007, L'Espoir and Gri-Gri International, reopened in June and remained closed at year's end, respectively.
Journalists also suffered physical violence. In November a reporter for Gabonpage, an internet news site, was attacked by the police, and in December a reporter for the weekly Le Nganga was assaulted by the Republican Guard.
Gabon has several private radio stations and four private television stations. The government owns two radio stations and two television stations that are able to broadcast nationwide.
The government-affiliated L'Union is the only daily in the country, and fewer than a dozen private weeklies and monthlies print sporadically due to financial constraints and government-ordered closures.
Foreign publications and radio broadcasts are widely available.
There are no reports that the government restricts internet access or monitors e-mail, although less than 6 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2008.